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Charlotte Davies successful for Plymouth City Council in the appeal of the renaming of Sir John Hawkins Square

7th December 2020

In a case that has garnered both national and international interest, Charlotte Davies (2007) has successfully defended Plymouth City Council in an appeal brought against the proposed renaming of Sir John Hawkins Square to Jack Leslie Square.

 

The Council's decision and the appeal have been subject to media coverage worldwide, with Radio 4 airing a programme dedicated to discussing the proposed change. The case has also featured in a number of recent documentaries discussing the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in particular the changing of street names and the removal of statues of historical figures involved in slave trading. 

 

Mr Bamping appealed against the decision to remove the name of the Elizabethan sailor Sir John Hawkins, following discussions between the public and local Councillors over his involvement in the slave trade. The Council proposed to rename the Square after Jack Leslie, the only black footballer in England during his time with Plymouth Argyle. Jack Leslie was called up to play for England but the invitation was withdrawn after it was speculated that members of the FA had been unaware of his ethnicity.

 

The Judge found that the Appellant had failed to prove that the decision of the Council was "wrong", applying Basildon Borough Council v James [2015] EWHC 3365. The Judge was satisfied that s.18 Public Health Act 1925 gave the Council the power to "change" a street name (not just "amend", as argued by the Appellant); that there was no requirement to consult residents, there being no residents on the Square; that there was no requirement for any wider public consultation, either under the statute or within the Council's own policies, and in any event a motion for the same had been voted down at a full council meeting; the requisite Notice, containing all necessary information, had been displayed for the required amount of time; and permission had been obtained from the family of Jack Leslie, as per Council policy. 

 

Furthermore, Mr Bamping's submission that the decision to use the name of Jack Leslie was "racist" being "based purely on the colour of his skin" and therefore in breach of the Council's Equality & Diversity Policy, was not accepted by the court, with the Judge stating that it was "not in any way racist" having found that there "was much more to the decision" which had been given "full and clear consideration" by the Council. 

 

The Judge, in affording the Council due respect as "the duly constituted and elected local authority" ​such that decisions taken by it "should not be lightly reversed" (as per Basildon v James), dismissed the appeal on every ground. 

 

The Council has applied for its costs and a decision on that application will be handed down on 18 December 2020. 

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Charlotte Davies successful for Plymouth City Council in the appeal of the renaming of Sir John Hawkins Square