Backlash forces council to ditch new East Coast name that cost thousands
A controversial new council name has proven so unpopular that it has been ditched after just one month - despite costing thousands.
The new combined North Down and Ards Council was to be called East Coast Council.
This name was chosen from a potential 50 that consultants proposed. These were narrowed down to a shortlist of six, and then two, from which East Coast was voted through by a majority of just one by councillors in December.
It sparked a backlash with 140 people signing a petition against the new name and a Facebook page against it being set up.
Independent councillor Austen Lennon even wrote to Environment Minister Mark H Durkan asking him to intervene.
He blasted the rebranding as "an exercise in futility".
However, it can now be revealed that the council has now rowed back and has launched a public consultation to select a new name.
The shortlist is: Ards North Down; East Coast; North County Down; North Down and Ards; Loughlands, and Peninsula.
It can also be revealed that some of the names from the long list of 50 included SAND - standing for Strangford and North Down - Easterly, Clandeboye, Towers, several Ulster-Scots names and also Cuan, which is the old Irish name for Strangford Lough. Presiding councillor Alan Graham admitted that his preference was North County Down.
"It has been put out to public consultation for the month of January, the intention is to put the six names before the public that we put to the meeting in December," he said.
"There was a process gone through assisted by consultants. It was done in a workshop environment, and there was something like 50 names considered, some of those you would call more adventurous names.
"The fact that the council was very much divided down the line would indicate that the community is divided too. There is not an easy solution to a new name."
The council paid £23,400 to consultants to devise the potential new names. It is also forking out £16,000 for a new coat of arms, and is also looking into a new mayoral chain.
The new council's chief executive, Stephen Reid, previously defended the use of money, emphasising that the cost of the new names also included market research, consultation, workshops, developing a logo and the implementation plan for it to be deployed on all the signage and stationery. He then claimed the amount being spent on rebranding was "significantly lower" than what other councils had spent.
"It's about a new beginning and a new start, rather than being seen as two councils coming together. We are comfortable that it represents good value for money," he said.
Finding new names for councils has sparked controversy across the province.
One of the most bitter rows has been in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon body. Nationalist and republican councillors have flatly refused to support the inclusion of Craigavon in the new name, and one of the unionist suggestions - the Orange County - at a workshop has been met with derision.
Newry and Down councils voted to rename themselves Newry, Mourne and Down on January 6, but representatives from south Armagh feel they have been left out.
Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Causeway Coast and Glens, Derry and Strabane, Fermanagh and Omagh, Antrim and Newtownabbey and Mid Ulster have so far agreed to stick with the name they were given by Stormont. Under the rules for the new councils, names must include either all the major areas incorporated or be something completely new.
Some of the initial 50 names suggested for the combined North Down and Ards Council included SAND - standing for Strangford and North Down - Easterly, Clandeboye and Cuan.
The public are now being asked to pick between Ards North Down; East Coast, North County Down, North Down and Ards, Loughlands and Peninsula.