In Depth

The 39 towns competing to be cities

Queen will approve ‘upgrade’ in status to winning locations next year as part of Platinum Jubilee celebrations

Towns across the UK and in its overseas territories could gain city status thanks to a competition being run as part of the Queen’s 2022 Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

“Old feuds have been dusted off and battle lines drawn,” said The Guardian, as 39 towns find themselves “competing for an upgrade”, said the BBC

Entries from British overseas territories and crown dependencies have been included for the first time in the civic honours competition, which resulted in Sunderland being awarded city status in 1992, Preston in 2002 and Chelmsford in 2012. 

Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, has thrown its hat into the ring. The sparsely populated South Atlantic islands have been under British rule for almost 200 years, and “remain untouched by chain businesses”, said Sky News. Despite having just “four pubs, three churches and a fish and chip shop” and being “nearly 8,000 miles away”, Stanley could soon become a recognised city, said The Times.

Some contenders may find themselves in an unfair fight in the coming months. “You could forgive the good burghers of Goole for being a bit put out,” said The Guardian: “what chance do they have against Gibraltar?”

While some names on the list of contenders are first-timers, others have been vying for the title for decades now. Reading has “tried and failed” to achieve city status on three occasions since 2000, said Berkshire Live. But compared to the other towns listed in the line-up, the news site reckons “Reading is a match for them all” despite the “deliberately vague” competition guidelines. 

Like Sunderland, the Berkshire town is “home to huge global businesses”, and its “rich ancient history” isn’t a far cry from that of Chelmsford, which won the city title during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. 

With a population of around 1,500, Marazion would become Cornwall’s second – and the UK’s smallest – city if it were to be awarded that status next year. “While it doesn’t have a cathedral, it does feature the impressive St Michael’s Mount,” said Josh Barrie at the i news site. The seaside town is a popular tourist destination, with “some 400,000 British and international visitors” descending on the town annually, said The Telegraph.

Warwick council believes that winning the competition would “elevate the town’s profile nationally and internationally and enhance its attractiveness as a place to live”, said the BBC. Its historic buildings were listed in the application, as well as “a rich history that has many connections to the Royal Family”. This last point could be an important factor, given royal associations were one part of the application process. 

“City status is not only about local pride, it can deliver real levelling up benefits for businesses and the local area which is clear from the high number of applications,” said Steve Barclay, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

A panel of ministers will review the 39 applications, and the winning locations will ultimately be approved by the Queen. The announcement will be made in June 2022. 

The i’s Barrie issued a word of warning to the applicants: “nobody should be holding their breath as only 14 new cities were created throughout the entire 20th century.” 

Here’s the full list of contenders:

  • Alcester, Warwickshire
  • Ballymena, County Antrim
  • Bangor, County Down
  • Blackburn, Lancashire
  • Bolsover, Derbyshire
  • Boston, Lincolnshire
  • Bournemouth, Dorset
  • Coleraine, County Londonderry
  • Colchester, Essex
  • Crawley, West Sussex
  • Crewe, Cheshire
  • Doncaster, South Yorkshire
  • Dorchester, Dorset
  • Douglas, Isle of Man
  • Dudley, West Midlands
  • Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway
  • Dunfermline, Fife
  • Elgin, Moray
  • George Town, Cayman Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Goole, East Yorkshire
  • Greenock, Renfrewshire
  • Guildford, Surrey
  • Livingston, West Lothian
  • Marazion, Cornwall
  • Medway, Kent
  • Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire
  • Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
  • Newport and Carisbrooke, Isle of Wight
  • Northampton, Northamptonshire
  • Oban, Argyll and Bute
  • Reading, Berkshire
  • Peel, Isle of Man
  • St Andrews, Fife
  • Stanley, Falkland Islands
  • South Ayrshire, Ayrshire and Arran
  • Warrington, Cheshire
  • Warwick, Warwickshire
  • Wrexham, Clwyd

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