Colchester set to bid for city status

The second largest town in Essex could become a city, as the borough’s cabinet have endorsed plans to bid for official status in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Colchester Borough Council’s cabinet endorsed the bid at a meeting last night (October 13), recommending it for final approval by the full council later this year.

The council hopes city status will recognise the historic, economic and cultural importance of the town.

But Labour and backbench Conservatives criticised the cabinet for not properly gauging public support and risking Colchester’s identity as a town.

There is currently an open call for local authorities to submit bids for city status for their towns in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

The authority plans to use the town’s 2,000 year history to its advantage, since it was once the capital of Roman Britain.

Portfolio Holder for Economy, Business and Heritage Darius Laws (Con, Rural North) said at the meeting: “Why should we sit in the shadow of Norwich city or Chelmsford city?

“Tourism could boom. We could be on the international tourist destination list.”

Colchester’s economy is currently centred around small businesses, but Cllr Laws claimed this would be an opportunity to attract larger ones.

He said: “Everyone who has any doubt about doing this search deep, look into the future, look into what’s going to happen with artificial intelligence, smart cities, the end to silo working, the end to nine-to-five, it could be really exciting.”

Labour group leader Adam Fox (Old Heath and The Hythe) said he supported city status, but criticised the cabinet for only consulting with “key stakeholders”.

He told the meeting: “It suggests that it’s just the great and the good that will be asked to support a bid for city status and it shouldn’t just be that.”

In a statement following the meeting, he said: “A bid for city status will only be successful if it has broad public support.

“It is not clear that the Tory-run council have consulted widely enough and ensured people know why a bid is being considered and how Colchester will benefit.”

However, Conservative Councillor Lewis Barber (Lexden and Braiswick) also criticised the proposals, claiming they would not allow for greater flexibility in spending.

He said: “I don’t believe conferring city status to us would address any of the issues that my residents care about and that I feel challenge our borough.”

If approved by the full council, this will be the fourth time Colchester has attempted to obtain city status.

The last bid was in 2012, when neighbouring Chelmsford were successful instead.

Colchester occupies the site of Caledonium, the first major Roman city in Britain, and is home to the UK’s only known Roman Circus.


Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter