Dacorum Borough Council's Street Name Plates

"This bit of territory is mine"

Until recently, all new street name plates installed by Dacorum Borough Council bore the council's name, logo and corporate identity of "Go-faster stripes". Outside designated conservation areas, the plates were of green print on a cream background, in accordance with the council's corporate image. These plates cost 15 more than plain black and white ones which gave only the name of the street. Once again, the taxpayer was not getting value for money from the council.

The design was not popular with local people. Berkhamsted Town Council held a public consultation on street name plates in 1995 which produced a rare example of unanymity: not a single respondent liked green on cream. Some remarked on how difficult it was to read green-on-cream plates by lamplight when compared with black-on-white. Black letters on a white background was the preferred choice among the respondents, but cream on blue was also popular, as long as it did not include the borough name, logo or stripes. People's opinion on the design was also clear: they wanted no visual clutter or corporate image on the plates, only the name of the street.

Complaints about the design were made to Dacorum Borough Council, which refused to accommodate the wishes of local residents. Labour Councillor Margaret Coxage, who chaired Dacorum's Works Committee at the time, said that the purpose of the design was to "Draw together the different parts of the Borough into a cohesive whole". This was a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the borough. It is not a "Cohesive whole": it consists of a large new town - Hemel Hempstead - the historic towns of Berkhamsted and Tring, a number of attractive villages and rural areas. Not many residents outside the new town would wish to be drawn into a cohesive whole, or even a cohesive hole, with Hemel Hempstead.

As far as Dacorum Borough Council is concerned, street name plates seem to be more concerned with ego - "This bit of territory is mine" - than with telling people the name of the street. Dacorum uses street name plates in the same manner as dogs do.

The Borough Council has since made the welcome decision not to put its logo and go-faster stripes on future street name plates, but is still imposing its corporate colours of green letters on a cream background throughout the borough, excepting only the conservation areas. It also insists on printing "Borough of Dacorum" on every new plate, including those to be installed in conservation areas.

Dacorum has also decided to allow commercial advertising on street name plates. I am waiting for the plate which is honest enough to read, "Dacorum Borough Council - a branch of the John Lewis Partnership".

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