Coleraine and Craigavon are going head to head in the battle to become the UK’s next new city, the Government announced last night.
One town will be granted the status to mark the Queen's 60 years on the throne next year — the first to receive the honour since the Golden Jubilee in 2002 that saw Lisburn and Newry, as well as Preston, Stirling and Newport, all made cities.
Cabinet Office Minister Mark Harper said that 26 towns have put themselves forward from every part of the UK.
Last night East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell backed Coleraine’s chances of scooping the title, praising “beautiful countryside” and wryly pointing to the dominance of roundabouts on the landscape of the rival bidder.
He said: “Coleraine has a number of attractions. Craigavon is a nice place but it does have a large number of roundabouts. I think Coleraine Borough area, which takes in beautiful places like Portstewart and Castlerock, and also has exceptional shopping areas, is very deserving of city status.”
Armagh was one of the 12 cities which submitted applications for the right to appoint a Lord Mayor or in Scotland, a Lord Provostship. Mr Harper said: “This is a magnificent response to the competition and it is clear an impressive amount of effort has gone into all the applications that have been submitted.
“The results are expected to be announced early in 2012.”
The 26 towns applying for city status are: Bolton; Bournemouth; Chelmsford; Colchester; Coleraine; Corby; Craigavon; Croydon; Doncaster; Dorchester; Dudley; Dumfries; Gateshead; Goole; Luton; Medway; Middlesbrough; Milton Keynes; Perth; Reading; Southend; St Asaph; St Austell; Stockport; Tower Hamlets and Wrexham.
Craigavon was named after Northern Ireland’s first Prime Minister, James Craig. Located between Lurgan and Portadown, work on the planned settlement began in 1965. It is infamous for its 15 roundabouts. Coleraine is the hometown of actor James Nesbitt. Its name means ‘nook of the ferns’. Coleraine has a long history of settlement dating back to 5935BC.