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.

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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.”