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Middlesbrough's city bid campaign
Centre Square, Middlesbrough
Centre Square has hosted events including BBC Proms in the Park.

A bid to turn Middlesbrough from a town into a city begins on Wednesday, 2 March 2011.

In 2010, the government announced that a new city would be created as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations next year.

Middlesbrough's formal bid is due to be submitted by the end of May.

The council hopes that sponsorship and public involvement will mean the bid can be completed at 'little or no cost'.

Reading, Wrexham, Perth, Machynlleth, Milton Keynes, Medway, Croydon and Bolton are also bidding for city status.

'Porkers, parmos and ASBOs'

Ray Mallon at the transporter bridge
Middlesbrough is already a city in all but name ... this town warrants city status.
Ray Mallon, mayor

Supporters of Middlesbrough's bid to become a city speak of 'prestige' and 'punching above our weight'.

Becoming a city would not bring the town any new money. Middlesbrough Council says that's not the point.

It sees the bid as a step in the process of rebranding Middlesbrough, throwing off the image of a 'town of fatties, teetering on the edge of a precipice of decline', so popular with some parts of the national media.

While prejudice from a London-based media may go some way to explaining some of Middlesbrough's image problem, no one is denying it is a town with problems.

Research by Experian for the BBC suggested last year that Middlesbrough has the least resilient economy in England.

In other words, it could suffer the most from any economic shocks, including the big public sector cuts in the offing.

The town's economy is disproportionately dependent on the public sector and an image problem that makes private investors tough to attract.

It is that image problem and the desperate need to get the private sector to look again at Middlesbrough, that gives this campaign of 'pride and passion' a harder economic edge.

Financier and property developer Andy Preston of Green Lane Capital said: "Although winning isn't critical to the changes we need to make to propel the town to a successful future, it would boost our confidence."

Boasts

Mima
Middlesbrough's modern art gallery, Mima opened in 2007

The hope is that the attention would give the town an opportunity to sell itself anew and there is no denying there have been some significant developments over the past decade that Middlesbrough has every right to be proud of.

Teesside University was named The Times' 'University of the Year for 2010'.

Middlesbrough's Centre Square is one of the UK's biggest civic open spaces, and is home to the modern arts venue Mima, which continues to surprise visitors.

The newly built Boho Zone is beginning to show its potential, turning the formerly ill-reputed St Hilda's into a hive of small, digital and media companies.

On the riverbank, the flagship Middlehaven development didn't get finished before the property market collapsed.

But building work has resumed and it can still make the ambitious claim that it is on course to become the UK's first major zero carbon residential, leisure and commercial development.

Precedent

Middlesbrough College
Middlesbrough College opened on the new Middlehaven Development.

Middlesbrough last applied for city status in 2002, when a new city was created to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee. It lost out to Newport.

Councillors in Newport are quick to boast about their achievements since becoming a city.

Newport has a world-class Velodrome, attracted some big employers and is now a location for government headquarters outside of London, though whether or not these would have happened anyway is impossible to say.

City region

Lackenby beam mill
Most of Teesside's industry is based outside Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough is already part of the Tees Valley City Region, which also includes Hartlepool, Stockton, Darlington and Redcar and Cleveland.

Economically, by far the City Region's two greatest assets are based outside Middlesbrough in Redcar and Cleveland Borough - Sembcorp's Wilton Chemical Complex and the soon-to-reopen Redcar Steelworks.

Other big income generators, such as Teesport and the petrochemical industries based on the North Bank of the Tees, also fall outside Middlesbrough.

Teesside as a whole cannot apply to become a city, as it is served by more than one council. To establish Teesside as a city would first involve amalgamating the area's councils into one, without any guarantee of success afterwards.

So when it comes down to economics, Middlesbrough's position as a residential, social and retail centre for the wider Tees area is key to its survival.

Attracting the 720,000 people living in the Tees Valley into the town to spend their money is a must for Middlesbrough and it's clear that the council believes a 'city centre' is something worth working for.




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