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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April, 2003, 19:34 GMT 20:34 UK
Capital claims - Cardiff dangers
Cardiff Castle
Has Cardiff's rise created a north-south divide?
In a four-part series, BBC News Online explores how the recent growth of Cardiff has affected the rest of Wales.

Cardiff is currently fighting for the title of European Capital of Culture for 2008, but 100 years ago, it was not even a city, let alone a capital.

But its rapid rise, through city status in 1905 and winning a ballot to become capital in 1955, has helped fuel criticism of a perceived north-south divide in the country.

In the last 100 years, Cardiff has established itself as the administrative, economic, commercial, religious and sporting centre of Wales.

The city has been home to the National Museum of Wales since 1905 and the Welsh Office (and subsequently the Welsh Assembly) since 1964.

It also houses the main offices of BBC Wales and HTV and the Millennium Stadium.

Cardiff's growth is causing problems for the rest of Wales as it is drawing people and organisations away
Dafydd Iwan, historian

Dr Michael Samers, lecturer in economic and urban geography at the University of Nottingham said there were dangers of Cardiff becoming too much of a "magnet for migration".

"It is not just job opportunities, but cultural attractions - and the circle of investment can turn into a vicious cycle and it can become a victim of its own success," he said.

"People resent being spoken for by a capital that is divorced from their lives.

"If a city wants to be accepted as the capital, it must strive to represent different sections of society from across the country," he added.


And historian John Davies has warned against the dangers of the city becoming too dominant.

"One of my reasons for supporting devolution was that everything was sliding to London and the south east," he said.

"We don't want a miniature version in Wales," he added.

However he said Cardiff's dominance is down to where the bulk of Welsh people live, and that feelings of a north-south divide were inevitable.

Millennium Stadium (picture courtesy of freefoto.com)
The Millennium Stadium dominates modern-day Cardiff

"People see Cardiff as lopsided, but half of the population lives in easy commuting distance," he said.

He also said that resentment of a capital was experienced in practically all countries across the world.

But Dafydd Iwan, local historian in Caernarfon, is concerned that the rise of Cardiff is "starving the nation".

"Cardiff's growth is causing problems for the rest of Wales as it is drawing people and organisations away," he said.

"I am a strong believer in decentralising Wales away from Cardiff.

"It is not against Cardiff, but places like Caernarfon are suffering as a result of losing the young and the skilled," he added.

There is a bit of resentment in the north, but there is not a comparable place
Dennis Morgan, Cardiff historian

Alister Williams, a local historian in Wrexham - which recently lost out to Newport in a city status contest - feels that stronger links to tie the country together are essential.

"There is this very strong feel things are going to south east Wales," he said.

"I think that feeling is going to continue until there is a good access road to north Wales," he added.

However, Cardiff's strengths were defended by local historian Dennis Morgan - author of The Cardiff Story - who said the city had developed since becoming capital.

"In the last 20-30 years, it has fully justified the honour bestowed on it - it has become a capital in so many ways," he said.

"There is a bit of resentment in the north, but there is not a comparable place," he added.

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