Community groups have praised a new policy which will allow a public vote on scrapping street names in Watford with links to the slave trade.

Watford Borough Council has brought forward a new street naming and number policy, which will also see the council prioritise new street names that celebrate the town’s diversity.

The borough council has made the changes in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, which will be accompanied by work from Watford Museum to educate people about how roads such as Imperial Way got their names.

The new rule set for approval next week means if two thirds of residents back a change to street names with slave trade links, they can be replaced.

The council agreed to review its policy in July 2020 after Labour councillor Asif Khan raised concern about a number of street names in the borough, including Imperial Way, Colonial Way, Clive Way and Rhodes Way, because of their association with the slave trade and Britain’s imperial past.

In response, the borough council agreed to set up a task group to discuss the issue and recommendations were made in March 2021 to introduce a new policy.

Tola Dabiri, of Brick By Brick Communities which has researched Black history in Watford, said the new policy was "really welcome".

She said: "I think anything that encourages the community to participate in local affairs can only be a good thing. 

"Not everybody is going to be in favour of actually changing names which are perceived to be offensive, and so by allowing everyone to comment it also allows some debate around these issues.

"You wouldn’t want to get into a situation where some people are saying, ‘we definitely have to get rid of that name’ and other people saying, ‘No, we don’t’. What would be better, and what I think the consultation process will allow is some type of discussion and debate around it and hopefully lessen any conflict and for everybody to understand where the other side is coming from."

Ms Dabiri said while direct action such as the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol can be effective when a campaign had been ignored for many years, most communities just need a mechanism to discuss the issue and outline their thoughts.

She added: "It’s a great idea, and I think it’s very much in line with how cultural diversity is valued in Watford."

Harjit Singh, chairman of Watford Interfaith Association, was consulted on the proposals and said the naming of streets can be an important symbol in recognising a town’s diversity.

He said: "I do think it’s important that communities do feel they’ve got a stake within their own towns, reflecting upon who they are or reflecting upon their community. If you look at a place like India when the British went there, it almost leaves some kind of mark that this community has been here."

On January 17, the council’s cabinet will vote on the final policy, which will place a "significant emphasis" on introducing new street and block names that reflect the town’s history and diversity.

Renaming of streets will be dealt with on an individual case basis, but will "generally be avoided" unless it is likely to cause offence or if it causing problems for the emergency services..

Before any application is considered, a ballot must be conduction of all occupiers, including businesses, within the street, followed by a more formal consultation.

The consent of two-thirds of all those affected by the change must be obtained before the council’s cabinet has a final say on any changes.

The task group also suggested the council should commission Watford Museum to develop an education programme based around a new exhibition which explores the background of the town’s road names.