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Beartown Way name for Congleton Link Road is shunned

Naming the new link road Beartown Way has been rebuffed by objectors who have said it had “inappropriate connotations with dubious mediaeval practices”, the Chronicle can exlusively report.

Due to open this spring, the 5.5km bypass aims to take traffic away from Congleton town centre.

Its new name was put forward by Cheshire East Council’s highways section, with council officials saying it was appropriate due to Congleton’s nickname, Beartown, taken from a story about selling the town’s bible to buy a bear. “The town has lots of bear related links,” said the council.

Street naming legislation means that the local authority is required to gather views of various internal and external bodies, including local parish councils, for any proposed new street names.

Somerford Parish Council, the parish much of the link road runs through, was asked by Cheshire East for its comments and disagreed with the Beartown Way suggestion instead offering alternative names.

Coun Geoff Bell, parish council chairman, said: “As regards the naming of the Congleton Link Road, we did object to the suggestion of Beartown Way since we were concerned that the name had inappropriate connotations with dubious mediaeval practices.”

He explained that “bear-baiting was very popular in medieval and early modern times, attracting everyone from servants to royalty. Single or multiple dogs were set loose to bite or worry the bears. To prevent escapes (and the audiences being mauled) the bears were chained to stakes in the centre of the arena”.

Coun Bell said naming the link road Beartown Way “could encourage the sort of attacks on signs etc seen in other spheres (notably Bristol) in the recent past”.

The reference to Bristol related to the pulling down of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston by Black Lives Matters protestors last summer when they dumped it in the nearby dock.

Somerford Parish Council suggested three alternative names:
• Dane Valley Way: the link road runs through the valley;
• Dane Bridge Way: Mr Bell said the new bridge was the most “significant aspect” of the link road; and
• Dane Way.

“If these were thought to be unacceptable for any reason, then a satisfactory alternative might be Radnor Way,” said Coun Bell.

The parish council has also been asked to suggest names for another new road link between Back Lane roundabout, by the playing fields, to Black Firs Lane.

Coun Bell said: “As regards the road currently referred to as ‘new Back Lane’ or ‘Back Lane West’, the parish council, has suggested Somerford Lane.”

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