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Michael Deon Burton: Havering residents must decide on renaming landmarks with slave trader links

PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 June 2020

Cllr Michael Deon Burton, whose term as Mayor of Havering ended last week.  Picture: April Roach

Cllr Michael Deon Burton, whose term as Mayor of Havering ended last week. Picture: April Roach

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Havering residents must be the ones to choose whether to rename any monuments or street names, the borough’s outgoing mayor has said.

Cllr Michael Deon Burton, the council’s longest-serving BAME (black, Asian or minority ethnic) councillor of those currently sitting, finished his mayoral term earlier this month.

The Recorder reported last week that campaigners have called for street names such as Branfill Road and Champion Road in Upminster, as well as Branfil Primary School, to be renamed as they connected to the name of slave trader Andrew Branfill.

Cllr Deon Burton said that if names were to be changed, the community must agree to it.

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He added: “If there does truly exist a want to change the iconography and naming of roads and structures in honour of those now passed, then it must be by consensus. Let it come only from the local residents.”

The Conservative councillor for South Hornchurch questioned the value in the possible renaming of landmarks, saying: “When has the quick fix of out of sight, out of mind ever been of any lasting worth?

“Such simplistic actions prompted by the value, change the name lose the shame, do little other than placate the outrage of those who seek by means of shouting louder than the silent majority to impose their conscience as your guide.”

Shaun Bailey, Harold Hill resident and the Tory candidate for Mayor of London, said society should focus on the future instead of “running from our past”.

He said: “That means more statues and monuments to celebrate present-day role models and values.

“While there can be a case for removing statues or renaming roads that are offensive to large swathes of the community, I do not believe any statues should be removed or relocated without a full consultation and approval of the local community.”


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