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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 12:16 GMT
Newport's city triumph fuels anger
Newport city campaign
Newport has fought a hard campaign for city status
Newport has officially been unveiled as the newest city in Wales after winning a competition to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

The south Wales town joins four other new UK cities - Lisburn, Newry, Preston and Stirling - confirmed as part of the Royal celebrations.

It was chosen ahead of Aberystwyth, Machynlleth, Newtown, St Asaph and Wrexham who all mounted campaigns.

City contenders
Newport - chosen
St Asaph

But the decision has provoked anger on behalf of one of Newport's rivals in the race for city status - Wrexham.

Clwyd South MP Martyn Jones described the news as "extremely disappointing".

Three of the four existing Welsh cities - Cardiff, Swansea and the small cathedral city St David's - are in the south.

The fourth city in Wales, Bangor, is the only one in the north of the country.

"Granting city status would have not only been the right decision for Wrexham - it would have been the right decision for Wales.

Celtic Manor, Newport
The Celtic Manor will host the 2010 Ryder Cup

"Instead, we have a decision that has simply perpetuated the north-south divide that exists within Wales.

That anger was echoed by the Wrexham MP Ian Lucas.

"Wales now has three civic cities all of which are on the south Wales coast, what kind of message does this send to people in north Wales?" he said.

However, Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy has been defending the decision.

Mr Murphy. who was travelling to south Wales to join in Thursday's celebrations, denied ministers were ignoring the north by rejecting Wrexham's bid.

He said Newport had offered the best bid, both through its history and its forward-looking nature.

"The past 12 months have been truly traumatic for Newport and its people," he said.

"First there was the agony of widespread steel job losses as Corus closed the heavy end at Llanwern; then there was the joy that the town's Celtic Resort had won the competition to host the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Wrexham town centre
Wrexham was a contender in north Wales

Newport was also branded the crime capital of Britain in 2000 when Home Office figures showed that Gwent had the highest number of violent crime than in any other area.

"Newport had claims that were just undeniable," said Newport East AM John Griffiths, adding civic leaders will have new strengths in being able to market the town as a city.

In other quarters there has been a warm welcome for the decision.

Principal of the University of Wales College, Newport, Professor James Lusty, said: "This is a very important development for the region and UWCN will continue to work closely with the council to ensure all the opportunities are maximised.

There is no doubt that city status will aid the development of UWCN since research shows that students prefer to study in a city rather than a town.

Newport Rugby Club Chief Executive Keith Grainger also welcomed the news.

The Queen
The Queen will visit Newport on her Jubilee tour

"In becoming only the fifth town in Wales to achieve city status, Newport is taking its rightful place among the elite of the country and can now call itself the capital of East Wales with even greater justification," he said.

Sir Terry Matthews, whose Celtic Manor Resort outside the new city will host the 2010 Ryder Cup, offered his congratulations.

"This is thoroughly deserved recognition for a forward looking community with great history and heritage.

Meanwhile, First Minister Rhodri Morgan said city status was a very well deserved honour.

"Today is a major milestone in Newport's history," he said.

BBC Wales's Nick Palit
"Welcome to Wales's newest city - Newport"
BBC Wales's Jason Mohammad
takes a whistle-stop tour of Newport
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