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Proactive street naming

Exemplar Award Winner- Best Practice National Gazetteers Naming Award 2011: Birmingham City Council

Within the teams responsible for Street Naming and Numbering at Birmingham City Council, it was commonly felt that the standard of suggestions for new road names received from developers tended to lack imagination or any real local connection. Suggestions were often duplicated and regularly displayed a similarity to existing road names within the immediate vicinity.

With responsibility for more than 2,500 miles of public highways within an area of 26,700 hectares, Birmingham City Council is the largest high density authority in the country. Birmingham has seen significant city centre redevelopment in the past few years, including the opening of the International Convention Centre, the redevelopment of the area around Broad Street and the opening of the Bullring shopping complex.

The removal of the Inner Ring Road, seen by many as a ‘concrete collar’ preventing expansion, and the adoption of a massive urban regeneration project known as the Big City Plan are set to further increase the size of the central city core by 25%. This is expected to include 5,000 new homes and 50,000 new jobs, as well as the £600 million redevelopment of New Street Station, a new Library of Birmingham and the first new city centre park since Victorian times.

To redress the street naming balance and engage the Birmingham public, the council launched an exercise designed to collate a list of approved new road names, with local geographical, historical or cultural relevance and in accordance with street naming and numbering policy.


The exercise to garner a list of approved street names was launched by the Cabinet Member for Transportation and Street Services; it was advertised on the council’s website, promoted by leaflet distribution and was even featured in a series of short items on Radio WM. This consultation process attracted over 75 unique and original suggestions.

Each proposal for a new street name included the suggested street name, the geographical area or ward in which this street name would have relevance, and supporting information which included the historical, cultural or geographical connection.

Each suggestion was rigorously checked for duplication in the local area, for acceptability to different cultures and religions, and for accuracy and relevance. A list of proposed names was then submitted to councillors for consultation and approval, resulting in a final list of approved road names.

This list now forms Birmingham’s approved list of new road names from which developers may, if they wish, select. However, if a developer or landowner wishes to propose a different name they are encouraged to do so, and this will be considered in line with the above criteria before being put forward for councillor consultation.

The most unusual road name, in the opinion of council staff, is Invention Avenue – recently allocated to a cul-de-sac on a new development in Handsworth. Invention Avenue was suggested to reflect Birmingham’s role as the ‘cradle’ of the manufacturing revolution. The 18th Century saw Birmingham emerge to the forefront of worldwide development in science, technology, medicine and philosophy, while, as early as 1791, Birmingham was described by economist Arthur Young as ‘the first manufacturing town in the world’.

Other names of interest on the list include: Doyle Drive, named after the ‘founding father’ of detective fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Vegan Way, named after the Vegan Society that has recently relocated to the Jewellery Quarter; and Leyland Road, honouring the city’s proud car manufacturing past. A full list of approved street names can be found on the council website.

Key benefits

• a pre-approved list of street names with pertinence to local history, geography or culture

• street names validated to ensure compliance with Street Naming and Numbering Policy and the national data entry conventions

• engagement with the public, engendering a feeling of involvement in Council decisions and development of community spirit.

View from the authority

“The Brigade had a bold, all encompassing vision for a corporate gazetteer. By meeting and exceeding these expectations, we have delivered an LLPG based gazetteer capable of serving one of the busiest fi re control rooms in the UK. We have also created a solution that can be adopted and developed by other emergency services and their partner organisations.”

-Tim Needham Software Architect, West Midlands Fire Service

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