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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

The Name of the Roads

I am pleased to chair the National Road Names Appeals Panel. I was first introduced to some of the issues many years ago when my wife and I purchased a bungalow in Spring Lane. I had vaguely associated the name with the freshness of rebirth in spring, and it was not until I watched American television programmes on Tornado Alley and Death Row that something more sinister began to dawn. This was confirmed in the very wet winter of 1987 when the springs over which the properties had been constructed led to hundreds of thousands of pounds in subsidence damage.

My encounter with the subtleties of road naming may have ended there had it not been for the EU ruling that road names should be categorised as ‘consumer labelling’ and as such must ‘ some substantial characteristic about their locality.’ Furthermore, to ensure impartiality, names had to be ‘...chosen by an independent panel.’

Initially, this led to an interesting diversity of new namings: Reactor View; Flood Plain Crescent; Runway Mews; Building Regs - What Building Regs? Terrace and so forth. The trouble began when the builders who had constructed ‘Desirable, detached, four-bedroomed, neo-tudor residences’ in Toxic Chemical Waste Dump Gardens found they were unable to sell their houses. I was asked to chair an appeals panel.

This provided an opportunity to define the principles by which namings should be made. The rejection of That Bastard At Number 25 Ran Off With My Wife Crescent established the principle the road namings should be an ‘enduring characteristic’ of the locality, as a road could not be renamed simply because a resident had moved. The same principle applied to the rejection of Death Stalker Square, as the officers at the station in Sod Criminals, Harass Motorists Lane could, one day, have got lucky. By contrast, the engineering impossibility of managing the water table did lead to acceptance of Raw Sewage Backup Drive.

The system was working relatively well until house names were incorporated within the EU directive. This has caused significant pressure on the Naming Panel in ensuring that house names ‘ some significant characteristic about the property or occupants.’

To quote one example, there remain 122,433 Dunromins where there has been no investigation as to whether the occupants had ‘...for a significant past period been travelling from place to place’ and had now ‘...substantially ceased such activity.’ These properties, as so many others, remain with tarpaulins over their name plaques.

There have, of course, been winners in the current chaos. Garden centre profits have risen as residents of The Willows required a second sapling or owners of Meadow View purchased several tons of grass seed. The decision of the owners of The Firs to nail two cat pelts to their front door remains controversial as it is, perhaps, neither in the spirit of this legislation, nor the government’s programme to promote literacy.

There will undoubtedly be questions from the floor of The House Of Self-serving Hypocrites.