Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine loses city status to a town one-seventh its size

By Louise Small

Coleraine has lost out on city status — to an obscure little town in Wales about seven times smaller than the Londonderry town.

Most people outside of Wales have probably never heard of St Asaph, but on Wednesday it became one of Britain's newest and smallest cities.

The news has caused deep disappointment in Coleraine after it was overlooked for the coveted status to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

She made her decisions on the advice of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg following a competition to bid for civic honours launched in December 2010.

In the announcement made on Wednesday Armagh city was awarded Lord Mayoralty status.

While Coleraine missed out, three other towns across the UK — Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph — were awarded the status.

DUP councillor Mark Fielding said it was disappointing for Coleraine.

“We will still celebrate the Diamond Jubilee as enthusiastically as any other part of the UK,” he said. “Coleraine is a university town and the capital of the Causeway coast, we put in a good bid and no town in Northern Ireland was recognised.”

UUP councillor Norman Hillis was more upbeat about the announcement.

He said: “There is always tomorrow as far as I am concerned.

“With such a limited number of cities announced it was a long shot.

“Last time it was Newry and Lisburn and we thought with our stark connection being one of the first settlements in Ireland, we would have a chance.

“We also have a university and we are a historical town.

“We feel we have lost out and are a little disappointed but not entirely surprised.”

Alliance’s Bernard Fitzpatrick said: “We are deeply disappointed — we should have got it.

“We now have 60,000 people in the town, but we will survive.”

In Armagh, news that the council would now have a lord mayor was welcomed.

Deputy Mayor Mealla Campbell said: “This will put Armagh in a unique position with Dublin, Belfast and Cork and this will enable us to raise the profile of the city at home and abroad.

“Armagh is a city steeped in historical significance and it is good to see this recognised.

“Having a lord mayoralty affords us, as a council, an opportunity to market our city and promote Armagh on a par with some of our other main cities.”

Newry and Armagh MLA Danny Kennedy said: “I am absolutely delighted that this prestigious honour is to be awarded to the historic city of Armagh to commemorate Her Majesty’s 60th year on the throne and cannot help but think that a visit to Armagh by the Queen would be the icing on the cake.”

St Asaph and Coleraine comparisons

Population

St Asaph: 3,491 in 2001

Coleraine: 24,042 in 2001

Main attractions

St Asaph: A sixth century cathedral six miles from the well-known seaside town Rhyl.

Coleraine: The main town of the world famous Giant’s Causeway, which attracts more than two million visitors per year.

University of Ulster campus and Riverside Theatre.

Close to the spectacular north Antrim coast, championship golf courses, the River Bann. Has a leisure centre and cinema.

Town Shopping

St Asaph: 21 premises

Coleraine: Has 29 shops in the Diamond Centre alone.

Notable people

St Asaph: Former Wales football captain Ian Rush, the late composer William Mathias, best known for writing a hymn for Prince Charles and Princess Diana's 1981 wedding, Wales's first archbishop Alfred George Edwards, female professional golfer Becky Brewerton and Lisa Scott-Lee, vocalist with pop act Steps.

Coleraine: Actor James Nesbitt, Ireland rugby star Andrew Trimble, Olympic rower Alan Campbell, former prime minister Andrew Bonar Law, British ladies' figure skating champion Jenna McCorkell, award-winning journalist Speedy Moore, Jayne Wisener, star of Sweeney Todd and Six Degrees.

Football

St Asaph: St Asaph FC, who play in the Vale of Clwyd and Conwy Premier League. Their ground Roe Plas Meadows is a local park, with no stands or seating areas, and is where the local council use a committee room to stage their monthly meetings.

Coleraine: Coleraine FC, one of the most successful clubs outside Belfast. Winners of the Irish League title once (in 1973–74) and the Irish Cup on five occasions, most recently in 2002–03. It is also the only Irish League club to have won two successive all-Ireland competitions, lifting the Blaxnit Cup in 1969 and 1970.

Events

St Asaph: The North Wales International Music Festival, Gala Day in August, Woodfest Wales crafts festival.

Coleraine: North West 200 motorcycle road races, Northern Ireland Milk Cup youth football competition, Irish Open.

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