Suffolk to start new bid to bring city status to county town of Ipswich

The Civic Drive junction from the top of the Willis building. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The Civic Drive junction from the top of the Willis building. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

A new bid to get city status for Ipswich is set to be launched next week – by Suffolk County Council.

Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble is to propose a motion at next week’s full meeting calling for the authority to support a bid to recognise the importance of Ipswich to the economy of Suffolk.

It is to be seconded by cabinet member for Ipswich, Paul West.

There are no firm plans for The Queen to create a new city in the immediate future – over the last 50 years new cities have been created to mark milestones in her reign, and to mark the millennium.

That could mean the next new city – or cities – will be created in 2022 to mark her Platinum Jubilee when she will have been on the throne for 70 years.

Colin Noble is proposing the city bid? Picture: SIMON PARKER

Colin Noble is proposing the city bid? Picture: SIMON PARKER

But Mr Noble also felt a new city could be named earlier – and he wanted Ipswich to be ready to take the opportunity if it did arise.

He said: “I have always said, from the day I became leader of the council, that having a strong and successful Ipswich was the key to having a strong and successful Suffolk.

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“Ipswich is a city in all but name. It is a thriving place and we are seeing a huge amount of investment going into the area. It deserves city status to make people look up and see what we have here.”

Mr Noble said the recent pattern of city status awards suggested that the next opportunity could be in early 2022 – but he felt it was good to be prepared in case something happened earlier.

“We don’t know when the next city will be created. It could be to mark the Royal wedding next year. We should be ready and this is a clear statement of intent.”

The motion says the county would work with Ipswich Borough Council and the Ipswich Vision Board – the umbrella group that represents business, the University of Suffolk, local authorities, and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership – to support a city bid for the town.

There was widespread support for the proposed bid from these other organisations – and it is expected to get all-party support when it is debated at next Thursday’s full meeting of the county council.

However any bid for city status is likely to see Ipswich facing stiff competition from other towns across the country, including Reading, Bournemouth, and Middlesbrough.

Widespread welcome for new Ipswich city bid

There was a widespread welcome for a new city bid for Ipswich from political and business leaders in the town.

Previous bids for city status have been spearheaded by the borough – but the first Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere knew about the proposal was when he was contacted by us.

However he was quick to welcome it: “It would appear the Platinum Jubilee in 2022 is the next time to bid for city status unless there is an opportunity that comes up sooner.

“There is no doubt that Ipswich deserves to become a city – it is the economic driver for the county and a successful Ipswich means we have a successful Suffolk.”

Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin said: “Ipswich Borough Council put a lot of effort into trying to obtain City Status for Ipswich during earlier rounds of city status awards.

“I believe Ipswich is a wonderful town and has unique qualities which do not depend on it having city status, but if there were to be an opportunity for Ipswich to reapply for city status, and if the residents of Ipswich are happy to do so, then I would of course be delighted to lend my support.

“No doubt at some stage soon Colin Noble will let Ipswich Borough Council and the MP for Ipswich know what information he has recently received to suggest to him that there might be another opportunity now, because he hasn’t spoken to us at all so far.”

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said: “I am, of course, pleased to support Suffolk County Council’s bid for Ipswich to gain city status, and trust that the motion will receive backing at next week’s full council meeting.

“As our county town, Ipswich has gone through some exciting changes recently and it is reaping the benefits as a growing number of key, high street brands have chosen to invest in the town centre.

“A strong county town is vital in driving further economic growth across Suffolk and working together, I am confident that Suffolk County Council, in collaboration with Ipswich Borough Council, Ipswich Vision and other partners, will present a compelling case in their bid for city status.”

Motion seconder Paul West said this was an appropriate moment to seek city status as the town was preparing for major developments at the Cornhill and the Waterfront area.

Ipswich Vision chairman Terry Hunt welcomed the proposal.

He said: “A bid for Ipswich to gain city status would be very welcome, because it would help to further raise the profile and status of the town. It would also recognise its potential and ambition. In terms of its economic importance, of course, Ipswich already operates at city level.

“What is also very welcome is the recognition that a strong Ipswich means a strong Suffolk. It is in the whole county’s interest for the county town to be performing to its maximum potential.

“On a lighter note, would city status mean Ipswich Town Football Club changing its name to Ipswich City? Swansea Town became Swansea City in 1969, so there is a precedent!”

What does city status mean?

Cites are now created by the issue of Letters Patent. Across the UK 11 new cities have been created in the 21st Century.

In England the “newest” cities are Derby (1977), Sunderland (1992), Wolverhampton and Brighton (2000), Preston (2002) and Chelmsford (2012). Other cities have been created in other countries of the UK.

Apart from those to mark the millennium, all have been created to mark milestones during The Queen’s reign.

Although the conferring of the title is a Royal Prerogative, the decision is effectively made by the government and towns are invited to bid for city status in advance of landmark.

Ipswich bid for city status in 1992, 2000, and 2002 – there is never any official reason given about why a town is, or is, not successful in a bid.

Size is not everything – cities can be as small as Ely or St Davids in Wales while Ipswich is officially only the 17th largest town (although including the built up area it would be one of the largest).