From Goole to Gibraltar: the towns preparing to battle for city status in 2022

You could forgive the good burghers of Goole for being a bit put out: what chance do they have against Gibraltar?

Old feuds have been dusted off and battle lines drawn, as the competition to decide which town will be awarded city status as part of the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations begins in earnest – with the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar and the Falklands included for the first time.

The competition, in which 39 places across the UK and British overseas territories will contend to become a city, is part of a series of planned celebrations to mark the Queen’s 70-year reign next year.

City status is traditionally associated with having an Anglican cathedral, although this link has long since been broken and the monarch can elevate towns based on the advice of the government.

Among the smaller Davids hoping to take on the Goliaths of British overseas territories and crown dependencies is Marazion, a small Cornish village outside Penzance (population 1,440) and Oban in the Scottish highlands (population 8,490).

The chair of the Marazion Chamber of Commerce, Paul Elliott, said that while the picturesque nook on the shore of Mount’s Bay was a “small town”, its business welcomed more than 400,000 British and international visitors each year.

The smallest city in the UK currently is St David’s in Wales, which has a population of 1,841.

The mood was bullish in Goole, east Yorkshire, with a report from East Riding council declaring confidently that it had “a good case for success” even if it was taking on its unofficial twin town, Gibraltar.

The humber port town is best known for its historic coal boat hoists. By contrast, Gibraltar clings to a rock off the south coast of Spain seized by the British in 1704 for strategic reasons. Some areas submitted entire council regions for consideration as cities – such as South Ayrshire in Scotland, or Medway in Kent.

Medway council is applying in an attempt to correct a historic wrong. The local authority was formed in 1998 when the town of Gillingham merged with the historic city of Rochester. Unfortunately, four years later it was discovered that as part of the merger process, the council had failed to appoint trustees to protect Rochester’s historic rights – meaning its city status was irrevocably lost.

Some towns applying for city status have already attempted to informally apply the label, despite not having the formal approval of the monarch. Guildford’s football club is Guildford City FC. Elgin in the north of Scotland – which already welcomes visitors with signs declaring itself to be a “historic cathedral city” – has also applied for formal recognition.

Other contenders include Doncaster, South Yorkshire; Crewe, Cheshire; Livingstone, West Lothian; Ballymena, County Antrim and Dudley, West Midlands.

They will be up against Stanley in the Falkland Islands, almost 8,000 miles away. There have also been entries from George Town in the Cayman Islands – and the whole of Gibraltar.

In a break with past civic honours competitions, an expert panel will work closely with ministers to make their recommendations, which will then be approved by the Queen. In guidance, applicants were asked for details about “the distinct identity and community which they felt meant that their area deserved to become a city”, as well as the royal associations of their area.

The new city or cities will be in addition to Southend-on-Sea, which was awarded city status by the Queen in tribute to its long-serving MP, Sir David Amess, who was fatally stabbed while holding a constituency surgery.

The Cabinet Office minister, Steve Barclay, called the list a “celebration of the rich and diverse communities” including “friends” farther afield.

“It’s fitting that, as we look towards celebrating the 70-year reign of Her Majesty the Queen, we extend the competition to include those parts of the world which also hold her so dearly,” he said.

The full list:

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, the Cayman Islands; Gibraltar, Gibraltar; Goole, east Yorkshire; Greenock, Renfrewshire; Guildford, Surrey; Livingston, West Lothian; Marazion, Cornwall; Medway, Kent; Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire; Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire; Newport and Carisbrooke, Hampshire; 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.

The full list of cities that have applied for lord provost/lord mayor status:

Bath, Somerset; Derby, Derbyshire; Gloucester, Gloucestershire; Inverness, Inverness; Lancaster, Lancashire; Lincoln, Lincolnshire; Newport, Gwent; Perth, Perth and Kinross; Southampton, Hampshire; Sunderland, Tyne and Wear; Wolverhampton, West Midlands; Worcester, Worcestershire.

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