There’s no better way to go down in history than to have a street named after you. Just think of the thoroughfares you walk down every day, named after historical figures, local dignitaries and the hoi polloi. Could that be your street? In decades and centuries to come, could the great unwashed masses of your town be strolling down boulevards and into cul-de-sacs named after you? The short answer is yes. Yes they could. But it won’t be easy. We investigate the laws and loopholes that will help you get a street with your name on it.
Who decides what streets are called?
Street naming regulations are enshrined in UK law. Your local borough or district council is responsible for assigning street names (and house numbers). The legislation can be found in the Towns Improvement Clauses Act 1847 and the Public Health Act of 1925. Naming streets is a big responsibility for council planning departments. They have to consider the character of the area, the sensitivities of residents and the needs of local organisations. The council has to work with postal and emergency services to make sure the names are clear and properties easy to find. All newly named and renamed streets are recorded in a central UK database, the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG). There are two circumstances streets are given new names:
- The street is new.
- The street is renamed.
So far, so bureaucratic. Which makes the challenge of getting a street named after you all the more sweet. Let’s take a look at how this can work in your favour. Here are some ways you can get a street named after you.
Walk through any town and you’ll see streets named after the great and the good. There are Shakespeare Streets and Coleridge Closes, Churchill Roads and Brunel Ways. But it’s not just ancient giants of literature, politics and science that get streets named after them. Local heroes get the same treatment.
75 year old record-breaker and marathon runner Ron Hill recently had a road renamed in his honour. The Accrington resident won a string of world-class long distance competitions in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The new “Ron Hill Way” is just around the corner from where he grew up.
80s hit-maker Gerry Rafferty had a street named after him Paisley, Glasgow after his death in 2011. Though, to be fair, in his case it may have been smarter to name a road after his big hit “Baker Street”.
So that’s one way to get a street named after you; be a big fish in a small pond. One of the disadvantages of this approach is that fame, local or otherwise, can take a significant amount of effort to achieve. Sir Alex Ferguson had to manage Manchester United for 26 years, then retire before the Manchester City Council deigned to name a street after him. Last remaining World War 1 veteran Claude Choules had to fight in the bloodiest global conflict the world has ever seen, then live to 110 years old. A street in his home town of Pershore was posthumously named after him. It doesn’t really seem worth it.
And sometimes, fame and achievement just isn’t enough. Barnett council asked its residents for volunteers willing to have their street renamed after former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. To date, no one has come forward.
Petition the council
Councils will consider renaming a street if enough local residents petition them. So, here’s where you have to get your thinking cap on… Stage one: get yourself so well liked down your road that asking your neighbours to rename the street after you doesn’t seem like a daft idea. We suggest a campaign of voluntary community service to butter people up. Mow lawns, paint fences, shop for groceries, cat sit, arrange a street party for everyone… In short, become a local hero. Stage two: get your fellow residents to sign a petition to change the street name and present it to the local council. Again, this approach has the disadvantage of requiring a significant amount of effort. And all it will take is one grumpy hold-out down your road to scupper your well-laid plans.
Build your own street named after you
One surefire solution, is to build the street yourself. Under current legislation, when you create a new street in an area, you’re responsible for coming up with suggested names and presenting them to the council. As long as they fit with local guidelines on street naming, this is by far your best chance of getting a street named after you. If you lack the funds to take on a vast urban regeneration project, then there’s a back-up approach. Many new developments have competitions to name the new streets that are created. For example, a huge competition was launched last year to name 10 recently developed roads around King’s Cross in London. Keep an eye out for similar contests in your local press. It’ll work out a lot cheaper than building a new network of roads.
Change your name
Fact: it is legally easier to change the name you were given at birth than it is to rename a street. All you have to do is start using the new name. According to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau: “There is no legal procedure to follow in order to change a name. You simply start using the new name. You can change your forename or surname, add names or rearrange your existing names.” In other words, there’s nothing in law to stop you from changing your name to “Sunset Boulevard”. Or “Abbey Road”. Or “Acacia Avenue”.
There are lots of other street names to choose from. The top five street names in the UK are:
- High Street
- Station Road
- Main Street
- Church Street
- Victoria Road
Any of these would make a fine name for a gentleman or lady. There’s the added bonus that you’d have a street named after you in any town you went to. It might get a bit confusing when someone tries to send you a letter though. So, there you have it. It is possible to get a street named after you, but it’s not easy. Perhaps you should take the path of least resistance and just promise to live an awesome life. If people name a street after you when you’ve gone, then that’ll be just a bonus.