Bidding for the prize we deserve

PUBLISHED: 02:11 26 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:45 03 March 2010

THIS week Ipswich has officially posted its name alongside rival UK authorities in the hope of winning City Status.

After losing out to Brighton and Wolverhampton in the Millennium competition, the town is now more determined than ever to succeed.

THIS week Ipswich has officially posted its name alongside rival UK authorities in the hope of winning City Status.

After losing out to Brighton and Wolverhampton in the Millennium competition, the town is now more determined than ever to succeed. DEBBIE WATSON reports.

THE deadline has passed, the entry is in – and Ipswich is firmly crossing its fingers. City Status… we come.

It's now a full year since the town slipped regretfully out of the running for the great Millennium status, but this week we've been confirmed as one of the 41 determined contenders for this year's attempt.

Alongside Blackpool, Dover, Guildford and Swindon, Ipswich is fighting its corner on behalf of Suffolk.

It hopes to steal the prestigious title in a brave battle against authorities from all over Britain. And the prospects look good.

Despite our defeat in 1993, and again last year, campaigners for Ipswich's city status have always been convinced that we should re-enter the nation-wide competition.

There was never any doubt that our name would be up on the list of hopeful entrants when it was released this month – nor that we would launch a determined fight for the status.

The over-riding message from Ipswich Borough Council is one of absolute positivity and confidence.

"We are in a good position this time, and we believe that a number of the criteria for this bid are very firmly in our favour," said council spokesman, Max Stocker.

"Unlike some of the other contenders, we don't have a neighbouring city for some 40 miles, and we've also been particularly good at demonstrating how 'forward-thinking' we are.

"As Suffolk, we lost Dunwich into the sea over 700 years ago – and now we want to embrace the chance to claim a city for ourselves again."

Largely, this optimistic attitude has been enhanced by Ipswich's growing profile in the world of football, and in the progress of our 'IP-City' concept.

Max hopes that these developments will very much support our town's new bid – potentially giving us city status in the Queen's Golden Jubilee year of 2002 .

"We have Ipswich Town, Ipswich Village, IP-City, and now we want Jubilee City," he added. "Last time, IP-City wasn't even in existence, so having that in our application should be a big boost in our favour.

"IP-City classes itself as a 'virtual city', so now we want to give the county a real city. We want it to take the acclaim it deserves."

The competition is already the subject of high betting stakes courtesy of bookmakers, William Hill. And among Ipswich's neighbouring rivals are two Essex contenders – Colchester and Chelmsford.

"These are strong bids," said Max. "But in our case, we are the only entrant from our county, and we hope that will help us.

"We also know that we are receiving great praise from key ministers, because it was only last week that Barbara Roche visited the area and complimented Ipswich on its dynamism."

He added: "If we could get this status we would attract more investment from overseas, but we also reward the people of Ipswich for the pride they have shown in the region over the years."

It is expected that Ipswich will finally hear a verdict on its latest bid early next year – possibly in February.

The assumption is that a total of four towns will be chosen from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. They will take the honour to celebrate fifty years since Her Majesty came to the thrown.

It would mean that seven cities had been created in the first two years of this century – a step which some critics say is unnecessary and inappropriate, given that so few towns were made into cities in the previous 100 years.

Brighton is just one of those somewhat-controversially 'created' cities.

Last December it was named as a Millennium City, and stole one of the places for which Ipswich had been bidding.

Almost a year on, Brighton and Hove City Council are in a good position to reflect on the advantages of this honour.

"We never anticipated an over-night impact on Brighton," said council spokesman, Alan Stone. "We were right in our assumption that it would take time before we really noticed a change, but now we can certainly see that it is helping us in terms of tourism.

"We are competing with our European cities now, and yes, the city status has certainly helped us to 'sell' Brighton."

Now it is Ipswich's turn to try to employ such 'selling' tactics.

With the backing of numerous Suffolk organisations, and with a carefully redesigned application, it has registered itself as a key contender for the next round of deliberations.

It is attempting to replace the disappointment that was felt by campaigners after previous defeats, and to prove that we have never been in a stronger, more deserving position to take the title.

"IP-City and the Cambridge-Ipswich Hi-Tech Corridor were not even in

existence two years ago when Ipswich made its last application," said Council Leader, Peter Gardiner.

"Since then, the inward investment both projects have achieved, the companies and jobs that have been created here, and the publicity that has established the brand and the region as a global hi-tech leader have all strengthened our case."

Hopefully, it will be Mr Gardiner's buoyant message which will be heard by the judges of City Status in the coming months.

The local authorities know how Ipswich has changed, the people of Ipswich know how Ipswich has changed – and now it's time that we shared it with the rest of the country.

Perhaps in February, we will get the chance we have been waiting for.


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