IN a big row over a small park, a council leader has criticised the naming of a plot of land after a “right wing Tory”.
A community banded together to transform a tiny patch of private land into Councillor Gerald Lee Park, named after Darlington’s environmentally-friendly town mayor.
The park – which measures around 25 square metres and will be opened tomorrow (Tuesday, July 29) – will soon be pitted against Prince’s Park in Burntwood, Staffordshire in a bid to be named Britain’s Smallest Park.
Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon openly criticised the decision to name the park after Councillor Lee, taking to Darlington Labour Party’s Facebook page to say: “Nice to see we as a Party are so inclusive we celebrate a right wing Tory and name part of our town after him. I think we should rename High Row, Thatcher Way, good idea or what?”
Expanding on his comment, he said: “The council has a policy of not naming things after living people which goes back to the time of the Quakers.
“I’m not detracting from anything Councillor Lee’s done, but we waited a year after John Williams’ death to name somewhere after him.
“There are two issues here, my views of Gerald as a politician - which are my views - and the issue of naming.
“They could name it Victoria Park or The Mayor’s Park. It’s private land, but if it had a postal address, then the council would have to agree it.
“We’ve got it right, you see other authorities naming all sorts after living, politically active people and I think that’s wrong – where does it stop?
“If they tried to name a new building after me, they’d do it over my dead body.”
The park – situated on Victoria Road – has been created by the South Terrace Residents Association in conjunction with the Darlington Guerrilla Gardeners.
One resident said: “We’ve told them to get stuffed – we’ll call it Councillor Gerald Lee Park because he’s our litter-picking Tsar and we admire him for what he’s done in the area.
“Hands off our park is the message from us.”
The mayor echoed the sentiments, saying: “Leave my park alone, Councillor Gerald Lee Park has a nice ring about it – keep my blooming park.
“We’re trying to encourage ideas like this as they make a difference in communities and bureaucracy like this gets in the way and upsets people.”