In September of this year, Spelthorne Borough Council announced that it was considering renaming Staines in order to promote a more positive and idyllic image of the town, which would help to boost the local economy. The town, having long been the butt of many a joke and mocked by comic Ali G, would become Staines- upon-Thames. However, after a month long public consultation with local residents and businesses, councillors have been forced to defend their plans which have been deemed ‘stupid’ and met with serious opposition.
After the consultation period came to an end last week, Staines Town Football Club wrote a letter to the council expressing its disagreement with the proposed action. 134 people put their name to the letter; 134 people were against the plans. Club Secretary Steven Parsons commented that: “We do hope the council throws the ideas on the fire where they belong…regardless of what happens we will not be changing our name. That is not up for grabs”.
Further opposition was raised at a Question and Answer Session where members of the community asked if there was any evidence that the change would boost economic growth, the cost of public consultationand whetherthe council were following protocol for such a plan. In response to these questions, Councillor Colin Davies made reference to a leaflet being circulated by members of the local communitythat ‘not only implicitly advises residents to oppose the change but urges them to do so in a manner calculated to cause optimum disruption to…the council’. With regard to protocol, the Economic Cabinet Minister has said, ”Town names do not change often and there is no recommended Government process for doing so’, before adding that “a town’s name has no legal status”, which is why the council felt the consultation necessary.
Councillor Colin Davies further commented that Staines, which has seen significant changes to shopping facilities over the past 12 years, would benefit further if the name were to change, as the change is ‘an integral part of the process of increasing tourism and inward investment’, a view shared by the Spelthorne Business Forum. Alex Tribick, the Forum Chairman, echoed the desire tolink the town with the Thames as a means of undoing any existing negative perceptions. He also stated that he believed no cost would be incurred in the change as signage would be sponsored and stationary for businesses would be replaced in the usual manner. Spelthorne Council has also said that if the name were to change local residents would not be required to change their licences.
A vote on the name change will be taken by the council in December.