Three towns in the United Kingdom are to become cities after winning a nationwide competition held to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.
Chelmsford in Essex, Perth in Scotland, and St Asaph in North Wales were selected as the three victors of the competition, whose bidding process began in November 2010. The city of Armagh in Northern Ireland was granted a lord mayoralty. Across the country, 26 towns in total applied for the honours, which are very rarely granted.
The Queen chose winners based on advice from deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. “Across the United Kingdom, I have been moved by the pride and passion which people have shown in putting their nominations forward,” he said.
He added: “The standard of application was very high, and those who missed out should not be downhearted. I hope the competition has given the residents of all of the places which applied a sense of civic pride, of collective ownership and of community spirit.”
St Asaph, a town of only 3,400 residents, won on their third attempt. Although considered a city for centuries thanks to its cathedral, laws drafted in the 20th century saw the township legally demoted from this status. The surprise victory makes it the second-smallest city in the UK behind St Davids, also Welsh.
“It is a deserved reward for a diamond of a community within the Big Society, a place which has always punched above its weight in leading north-east Wales in commerce, culture and welfare,” the town’s council said in a statement.
Perth becomes Scotland’s seventh city with the honour, which Perth & Kinross provost Dr John Hulbert claimed was “long overdue”. “I am delighted that official city status has been restored to Perth. Everyone in the council shares my excitement at the prospect of a glorious new chapter in Perth’s long history,” he said.
He added: “Full restoration of its ancient dignity is long overdue. This decision reflects the fact that Perth is at the forefront of Scottish life: a modern, dynamic, international city, offering unrivalled business, artistic, educational, cultural and sporting opportunities to its citizens and visitors.”
Chelmsford will become the first city in the English county of Essex. It has been Essex’s county town since 1218, and currently has a population of around 160,000 residents. One of the fastest-growing towns in the south-east of the country, it holds a Grade I listed cathedral.
Chelmsford Museums manager Nick Wickenden said: “If you look historically at the development of Chelmsford, getting city status is the next logical step. We have been the communications centre of the county since the 13th Century. And now it will forever be associated with the Jubilee year when people look back on the events of the Queen’s Jubilee.”
Among the rejected towns were Milton Keynes, Luton and Reading, despite all having populations higher than those of the successful candidates. The council leader of Medway, a failed bidding town in the county of Kent, spoke of his town’s growth over the past few years.
Rodney Chambers said: “Our bid has helped to raise our profile and show people how much this area has to offer. We know that Medway’s journey continues, and it is definitely heading in the right direction.”