Like Hollywood, Basildon puts its name up in lights

It may not be the most glamorous of places, but the Essex town of Basildon hopes to bring itself a fortune by installing a homage to Hollywood's famous white sign.

The 1950s new town, whose exports include the TV presenter Denise Van Outen and the band Depeche Mode, began to install block capital letters spelling out "BASILDON" along the side of the A127 yesterday. They will be lit up at night.

The sign is part of a £400,000 scheme by Basildon District Council to promote the town as a hub for international business. "Some of the local press seem to think it's a bit of a laugh, but it's not; it's deadly serious," said Steve Horgan, deputy leader of the council. "We're not doing this to try to make Basildon more glamorous – we want to bring the attention of people to Basildon as a business location."

At five feet tall, the new sign is one-tenth of the height of the Hollywood original. "You don't want something that's going to cause people to rubberneck and crash," said Mr Horgan. "The problem is our local geography makes it possible to zip through without realising you've just gone to one of the largest employment areas in the country."