Bangor’s newfound city status has been met with equal measures of surprise and scepticism by residents.
The coastal Co Down area has been named Northern Ireland’s newest city as part of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June, joining Belfast, Derry, Lisburn, Armagh and Newry in the exclusive club across the province.
However, some locals aren’t sure it deserves the new title.
“A city in my view is something massive with a cathedral, that’s just how I see it. I’m shocked, to be honest,” said Robert Rogan (60), who has lived in Bangor his entire life.
“At this point in time, we’re supposed to be a seaside resort, but in my opinion it doesn’t attract the same sort of numbers that Newcastle or Portrush would. Those towns are very well designed, especially for children, so we’re failing as a city and a seaside resort.”
He reiterated his belief that Bangor “is a good place to live”, but added that “it’s not a great shopping town and there’s not much to do”.
“A lot of my friends would criticise Bangor for just being a coffee shop town now. You only have to go three or four miles across the road to Newtownards and it’s a much better shopping town. It’s flat, so it’s more suitable for older people and there’s a better range of small businesses.
“I have no doubt that eventually whenever they get the go-ahead to develop the seafront, it will help the town - sorry, city - a great deal, and maybe it will feel more like a city then.”
Bangor’s seafront, known as Queen’s Parade, has been tipped for redevelopment and investment, but plans have continually fallen through.
Barbara Munroe (70) hopes that with city status the council will be pushed to “get nice trendy shops and proper parking sorted out”.
Having grown up down the road in Holywood, Barbara lived abroad for 24 years and said she has “travelled the world”, but returned to Bangor as she believes Ireland’s beauty is better than anywhere else.
“I was quite shocked to see Bangor become a city, but it’s nice to see and hopefully it will spur us on. Lots of tourists come here and we have a great sailing community that comes over from Scotland. We could be in Donegal or Scotland within two hours from here, we have it all on the doorstep.”
However, she noted that while having coffee in the centre one day, a Japanese man approached her and asked, ‘where are all the shops?’
“There’s your answer,” said Barbara. “We need something to bring the people in.”
Jenny Wallace co-owns McCullough's Regency Gift House, a multi-purpose shop selling baby goods, hardware and souvenirs, and is just a three-minute walk from Bangor Marina.
Her main concerns with the city status are around the possibility of business rates rising, “because they’re already pretty high”.
“I’m not too sure if being a city will make much difference, but I’d love it to bring people in,” Jenny said.
Although she believes new plans for a street food market to revamp the old and now empty Flagship shopping centre will do a better job of attracting visitors than city status.
Jenny also criticised aspects of the area, like the centre’s clock not working for five weeks, and that there has been a lack of decorations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
She added: “If you go into Donaghadee, they have lovely big plants and crowns for the Jubilee. I haven’t seen anything for Bangor.”
Ards and North Down Council said that “whilst the award infers a definite sense of prestige and pride, the granting of City Status confers no additional powers or functions in a town. On this basis, City Status will have no direct impact on rates within the Borough.”
They added that their focus “on regeneration projects such as Queen’s Parade and Bangor Waterfront is already helping to pave the way” and said that “Sea Bangor Festival, taking place on 4 and 5 June will be transformed to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee, using themes from each of the seven decades of Her Majesty’s outstanding reign”.
Regarding McKee Clock, the council said: “A specialist contractor has taken an initial look and asked us to keep a log of the actual time versus the displayed time for two weeks, in order to diagnose the issue. Once this data has been logged we will initiate the appropriate repairs.”
It looks like only time will tell what’s in store for the new — and yet to be improved — city of Bangor.