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Barnet by any other name is ‘irresponsible’
"What's in a name?" asked William Shakespeare half a millennium ago. Well, quite a lot, according to several Barnet residents.
Over the past 18 months, a few class-conscious graffiti artists have taken it upon themselves to improve the borough's image by adding an acute accent to the e on scores of road signs, using masking tape, Velcro and black paint.
The most recent markings appeared last week, on signs on the A1000, or Great North Road, and outside Barnet College.
The idea has proved popular among young residents. Tom Thorby, 20, recently added accents to every mention of the town in Barnet's Wikipedia entry, and Megan Lynch, 18, from High Barnet, set up a Facebook site called Actually I prefer living in Barnét than living in Barnet. It has 904 members, with a rival site - the Sunny Barnét del Mar appreciation society - boasting 110 members.
Miss Lynch said: "It's just a bit of fun. I don't think anyone actually wants to change the name, but people do seem to like saying they live in Barnét. People have started changing the area where they live on their Facebook sites."
But not all Barnet residents were pleased with their new cosmopolitan identity. Barnet Society planning and environment officer David Lee said he was "intensely irritated" about the changes, because he was the one who designed the original town welcome signs a decade ago.
He said: "These signs were the result of thinking and discussion by the Barnet town council forum, agreed on by the community and paid for by Barnet Council. It is very sad the community has done this.
"It's very irresponsible, and if they have nothing better to do then I feel very sorry for them."
But Barnet Society chairman Barry Blain believes the signs show residents are taking notice of their environment.
He said: "A little bit of graffiti seems a lot better than the horrible advertising slogans the council has put underneath the signs from estate agents. I'm quite pleased some residents are showing an awareness of their surroundings. It doesn't seem too serious."
Barnet Council has adopted a no-tolerance attitude towards the markings and has removed 19 of them over the past week.
A spokesman said: "Where we see signs defaced and not conforming to the traffic signs regulations and general directory manual, we will take immediate action. If signs do not belong to us we will inform the appropriate people."