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Council of Europe Boulevard

Council of Europe Boulevard is a road running between Stockton-on-Tees and Thornaby. It runs over the River Tees via the Princess of Wales Bridge, still locally known as the Diana Bridge. I had always assumed the bridge was named as a posthumous tribute, but in fact, it was named in 1992 and opened by the Princess herself.

But it’s the road I want to write about today. Until the late 1980s, it was called Trafalgar Street, but as the area began to set its sights higher and wider, it was renamed to reflect the spirit of European co-operation exemplified by the Council of Europe.

Over the coming years, the acknowledgement of Europe co-operation in a road name became ever-more relevant: Teesside became a huge net beneficiary of European Union funding, with hundreds of millions of pounds spent in the area even as national Government funding for the area dwindled. Indeed, the bridges immediately up- and down-stream of the Diana Bridge—the Millennium Bridge and the Infinity Bridge—were both built with European funding.

Yet, current Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has said:

There is hardly a more prominent, but inappropriately named road in Teesside than ‘Council of Europe Boulevard’.

I struggle to follow his logic as to why the name is inappropriate. Given that the UK remains a member of the Council of Europe, the specific choice of name remains apposite even post-Brexit. Houchen has spoken at length about the importance of protecting Teesside’s heritage, and European co-operation remains a key plank of that heritage. One can’t even make a post-rational argument that the name was inappropriately ‘bought’, given that the Council of Europe and the European Union are entirely distinct entities.

Nevertheless, Houchen would prefer the road to be renamed again, this time after Stanley Hollis, a war hero with no connection to Stockton or Thornaby.

The Mayor of Thornaby, Steve Walmsley, disagrees: he has observed that a different war hero—Edward Cooper—was born in Stockton and lived in Thornaby. Cooper might therefore be the more obvious choice, but as Walmsley has acknowledged:

We should recognise these people, but this just seems a bit silly.

It’s hard to disagree.

This post was filed under: Politics, , .

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27th March 2024.

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