Ipswich should be a city - and should be bidding for the honour next year

Ipswich Waterfront

Ipswich Waterfront is one of the features that could contribute to a successful city bid. - Credit: Nicole Drury

One of the most disappointing pieces of news I’ve heard during my career came when I heard that Ipswich’s city bid had been dropped because it had not won the support of local MP Tom Hunt.

I know there were objections to the bid – mainly based on total fallacies and a desire by some people to put the town down whatever damage it causes - but nowhere deserves city status more than Ipswich.

And I respectfully disagree with one of the points Mr Hunt makes.

To my mind a failure of the oldest English town to bid for city status indicates to me, and many others I’m sure, a total lack of confidence in the place by too many of its own citizens who were prepare to believe some total bilge by a minority of moaners.

Let’s deal with some of the objections:

"Ipswich doesn't have a cathedral."

You don't have to have a cathedral to be a city. Four of the last five new cities didn't have a cathedral when they were given their new status (Preston didn't when it was created a city in 2002, but The Pope promoted a church to a Roman Catholic cathedral a few years later).

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"A bid would be a waste of money."

The bid has to come from the council and the government has said local authorities should not spend anything on this - a pledge Ipswich Council has said it will abide by.

All that needs to be done is to submit a bid to the government - and there are council officials who are filling in government forms all the time so this should have been no different.

"It's a waste of time, we won't get it."

I feared Ipswich might be a long-shot this time given that the last new city to be created was Chelmsford just down the A12. But that really is no reason not to bid for the honour.

I was speaking to someone who was involved with the Chelmsford bid in 2012, and he admitted to me that they had thought they were very much an outsider and that other candidates stood a much better chance - yet they came through in the end.

However small the chance, it is worth putting in an application - nothing ventured, nothing gained!

"Ipswich is a dump, it doesn't deserve to be a city!"

This is the argument that really makes my blood boil - and betrays a total lack of confidence and a failure to appreciate the realities of life among some people.

Who is to say that Ipswich isn't as good as Wolverhampton in 2000, Sunderland in 1992, Preston in 2002, or Chelmsford in 2012? 

I can't speak with authority about any of them - the only one of those I know is Chelmsford - and I've really only got to know it in the last few years since it's become a city.

What I do know is that in all those cases, investment came in after city status had been granted - it put the place on the map. Chelmsford is now one of this region's most successful centres.

And there are far too many people who like to put Ipswich down at any opportunity without taking the trouble to  look for its good points  . . . or to consider that some of its problems might be common to just about any significant town or city in the country.

When I hear that Ipswich is so much worse than anywhere else I think of people I have met here  who have travelled to Ipswich for a meeting or a special event.

I've heard many times: "I didn't realise how nice Ipswich is!" Several visitors have commented to me about how impressed they have been with the Waterfront - and when I did a couple of stories talking to visitors to Christchurch Mansion to visit the Ed Sheeran exhibition a couple of years ago they couldn't believe how attractive the park was.

Christchurch Mansion in Christchurch Park

Who says Ipswich isn't worthy of city status? Visitors are often surprised at what they find here. - Credit: Andy Abbott

it's very easy to become obsessed with the things you don't like rather than focus on the many plus sides of the town.

And for Ipswich to get city status would be a huge boost for town and for Suffolk as a whole. As MP Dr Dan Poulter said, it would be much easier for him and Tom Hunt to get money out of the government for Ipswich if it were a city.

It would be much easier to persuade multi-national firms to come here if they knew it was a city - the description town can cover settlements from the size of Clare to Bournemouth but say "city" and you're instantly talking about something substantial.

So for all those reasons, I had hoped the borough council, civic and business leaders, and the citizens of Ipswich and Suffolk would get behind the city status bid and not allow themselves to be distracted by the whingers and keyboard warriors who appear to be only happy if they can find something to moan about!

It appears this time the moaners and whingers have won!



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