Street name stirs up social unrest: Residents on a new private estate are not amused by a move to name their close after a miner. Charles Oulton reports

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The Independent Online
WHEN Julia James won pounds 400,000 on the pools last year, she planned her move up in the world: a new car, a few holidays, and, for the first time, her own home, a smart pounds 100,000 Bath stone house on a new private development in Midsomer Norton, Avon.

Last weekend, she took up residence with all the pride of a first- time buyer, but the pride is already dented. Instead of being able to tell her friends that she lives at No 2, Wellow Brook Meadow, which she thought had a stylish ring to it, she is waiting for a council decision due tonight which could force her to change the heading on her notepaper.

In an area that has street names like Waterside Crescent, Woodpecker Avenue, and Manor Copse Road, the worthies on Wansdyke district council want to break with such social divisiveness and name the development after a former local miner, who died two years ago.

Ms James has nothing against the miner himself - who also became a local historian with a few books to his name as well as tending the ground at the local football club - but Reg Jones Close does not give her the social standing she thinks she deserves.

'It's a naff name,' she said yesterday, as she surveyed her new kitchen units. 'I don't really want to live in Reg Jones Close. I had never heard of him until two weeks ago. You would lose your street credibility. If you buy a house, I think you should have a say in what sort of name you have.'

Her neighbour, Sue Young, a clerical assistant agrees. She moved to the development two months ago from a nearby road called Beaufort Avenue, previously Beaufort Rise. She is not amused by the planned name.

Fresh from a ride on her horse, Merlin, and dressed in beige jodpurs and black riding boots (plastic), she said: 'I really did think it was a joke when the name Reg Jones Close was suggested. It does not sound very nice for a private estate.'

She suggests a compromise that councillors would do well to bear in mind before ruining the residents' fun in their new homes. 'I wouldn't mind Reginald Jones Close at all, or Jones Close, or even Reginald Close. But Reg Jones is just like Fred Smith, it just sounds so ridiculous.'

Even some of Reg's friends are opposed. Stan Winsley, a retired builder who moved on to the development at the weekend, said: 'Reg was a very nice bloke and I knew him all my life but I think this plan is ridiculous. Wellow Brook Meadow is much nicer and reflects the fact that there is a brook nearby.'

It was the Labour-controlled Norton Radstock town council that suggested naming the development after Reg Jones. It has already announced plans to have another road in the town named after a former lollipop lady, Ann Wilkinson, who died two years ago. A local housing association has lodged a formal objection.

Peter Sas, a North Radstock councillor, said members wanted to honour the memory of two of the town's most colourful characters. 'I would be extremely proud to live in Reg Jones Close.' Terry Reakes, the council's chairman, mindful of the recent decision to name another close after Bob Geldof said: 'People like Reg should be honoured. I get fed up with the rich and famous having streets named after them.'

Locals are already comparing the row with the television series Keeping Up Appearances, which features a woman named Mrs Bucket who prefers the name to be pronounced Bouquet. Ms James admits that she sees some of the character in herself.

Until last weekend she had been living with her parents and had been looking forward to striking out on her own. This episode has marred the experience, and she is not the only one put out by what has happened. The owners of a smart-looking house overlooking the site have decided to put the house up for sale.

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