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Tuesday, August 31, 1999 Published at 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK


St Asaph v Brighton: Battle for city status

Brighton: Patronised by Prince Regent but still not a city

All the bids for towns that want to become a city on the eve of the millennium must be in by Wednesday.

Home Secretary Jack Straw will announce the winner later this year and the Queen will then award it the status of a city.

[ image: St Asaph has a cathedral, but it is still only a town]
St Asaph has a cathedral, but it is still only a town
The chosen city will then receive a piece of parchment declaring that henceforth the town is a city and entitled to all "liberties, privileges and immunities" which go with that status.

Exactly what that means is unclear, but all are convinced it is a good idea.

The hope is that city status will be a major economic boost, like the medieval practice of touching the king's robes as a cure for disease.

Simon Fanshawe, from Brighton, and St Asaph's Andrew Thomas debate the issue
The names of those that have entered are being kept secret by the Home Office, but a number have publicly thrown their hats into the ring.

Among them are the big boys such as Croydon, Swindon, Milton Keynes and Brighton.

But the entries also include tiny St Asaph (population: 3,600) in north Wales. It already has its own cathedral, but contrary to popular belief, having a cathedral, a university or even lots of people does not give a place city status.

Andrew Thomas, a town and county councillor from St Asaph, told BBC News that size does not matter in applying for city status.

"It is not size that counts. It is merit," he said.

Here is a rough guide to two towns hoping to become cities:


Patron saints: Fatboy Slim and Zoe Ball, former Daily Star editor Derek Jameson, Steve Coogan and Gaz out of Supergrass.

[ image: Gaz Coombes: Brighton boy]
Gaz Coombes: Brighton boy
Distinguishing marks: Two piers, one derelict. The Royal Pavilion with its famous onion domes.

Hot news: Nurses fear they will be at risk when a new scheme stops many of them parking near the hospital where they work.

Property prices: 100,000 will buy you a two-bedroomed flat.

Big moment in history: Controversial newspaper columnist Julie Burchill moved to Brighton a few years ago.

Why should it be a city?

"Brighton is brilliant at turning the quirky into the mainstream," says Simon Fanshawe, chairman of Brighton and Hove's bid.

St Asaph:

Patron Saint: St Asaph. As a boy, he is reputed to have carried burning coals in his cloak but, miraculously, neither his own flesh nor the cloak were burnt. Lisa Scott-Lee from Steps. The Archbishop of Wales.

[ image: Lisa Scott-Lee: Stepping in for St Asaph]
Lisa Scott-Lee: Stepping in for St Asaph
Distinguishing marks: St Asaph's Cathedral. "The luxuriant grove of trees in which it is deeply embosomed give it a pleasingly romantic appearance." (From Handbook of the Vale of Clwyd, William Davis, 1856)

Hot news: St Asaph's bid for city status.

Property prices: 50,000 will buy you a 2/3 bed bungalow.

Big moment in history: Discovering in the 1970s that it was not in fact a city.

Why should be it be a city: "It would be a useful fillip to the area," says Andrew Thomas.

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