Property developer withdraws plan to name flats after antisemite

MP and Board of Deputies say naming apartment block after Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe, who was a member of the British Union of Fascists, would send the wrong signal


A plan to name a new block of flats after an aviation pioneer who was an antisemite has been withdrawn.

Property developers the Greenland Group wanted to name the 80-apartment block in the London borough of Wandsworth after Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe, the founder of the Avro aviation company and a member of the British Union of Fascists, the antisemitic organisation led by Sir Oswald Mosley 

But the company changed its mind after Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP for Tooting, said the move would send the wrong signal to residents in the borough.

 “In Wandsworth we pride ourselves on having a cohesive community where everyone is welcome,” Ms Alin-Khan said.

“It would send the wrong message at a time when hate crimes have risen to name such an important new building after a well-known fascist.”

In a statement, the Greenland Group said it had been unaware of Verdon Roe’s politics.

“Wandsworth Council has made a request of Greenland Group to change the name of the building following an objection by a local Member of Parliament of which Greenland had not been informed,” the statement said. 

“Greenland Group has no attachment to the name, and is happy to be steered by Wandsworth Council.”

The company said it had chosen the name because Verdon Roe had connections to the area - he had began his first biplane in a stables in Wandsworth in 1907.

Greenland pointed out he had been honoured by the council with a green plaque in 2011.

A council spokesman said it did "not dictate building names used by private developers on private land, and in this case the name Verdon Roe was selected by developer Greenland Group for one of the proposed new buildings.

“We’re certain the name was chosen in reference to this man’s role in the aviation industry and the Second World War, and that the developer had no knowledge of his political views."

A Board of Deputies spokesperson had also condemned the proposed name.

“It sends absolutely the wrong signal for buildings to be named after fascists and racists," a spokesperson said.

Dr Steven Woodbridge, senior lecturer in history at Kingston University, told the Evening Standard that even during the Second World War, Verdon Roe, who died in 1958, "was contributing articles to the publications of extreme right parties.

“I think his views would be abhorrent to people today. There was a definite strand of antisemitism in his thinking and outlook.”

An affordable housing development named Verdon Roe Court opened last year in Chingford, north-east London. The aviator successfullly flew a triplane in the area in 1909.

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