Jay Merrick: Naff names for new communities

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The naming yesterday of the five new neighbourhoods that will eventually take shape on the Olympic Park in east London is the first high-profile test of both localism and the much-vaunted Olympic legacy effect. The result will please Little Englanders; but it also reveals how tritely those in important positions think about qualities of place. Andrew Altman, head of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, claims the public – 2,000 neighbourhood names were suggested in an open competition – "has given a new piece of London its identity". You don't produce identity simply by calling a place Chobham Manor, Sweetwater, East Wick, Marshgate Wharf, or Pudding Mill.

The Communities minister Bob Neill, meanwhile, wants to avoid "artificial communities just plonked down." But they will be, regardless of names that sound as if they have local provenance. If they succeed, it won't be because Sweetwater was preferred to others, such as Redgravia and Little Athens. The choices are, however, faintly disturbing. They have a New Urbanist vibe, which gave us twee, Disneyesque model communities such as Celebration, in America, on which The Truman Show was based. If only one could have been named Plastic Fantastic, or Dog and Bike.

Jay Merrick is the architecture critic for 'The Independent'

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