Published: 15:33, 16 September 2021
| Updated: 17:37, 16 September 2021
A parish council has changed its status to town – to 'shake off a Vicar of Dibley image'.
Walmer councillors also made the decision to alter the area's identity to reflect its growing population.
Members at a full meeting on Wednesday last week voted to make the change with immediate effect.
Vice-chairman Mike Eddy told KentOnline: "For one thing we were getting cheesed off with being treated by other organisations as second class – there is a sort of Vicar of Dibley image.
"We do serious work. For example, we have set up a climate emergency working group and have installed electric vehicle charging points. This is a question of being seen as having more clout."
But Cllr Eddy also explained this was because of the area's growing population.
It was shown to be exactly 6,693 in the 2001 census, then 8,178 in the 2011 one and is expected to be about 9,000 when the figures for 2021 are confirmed.
Cllr Eddy added: "We are virtually twice the size of Sandwich and have the third largest population after Dover and Deal. We also have the second highest population density after Dover.
"Town council areas can actually have very small populations – Fordwich only has 400 people."
The change to the title is formally known as 'a change of style' and the new Walmer Town Council could now elect a mayor but will instead continue having a chairman.
It will have the same powers as a parish authority, such as setting a localised charge as part of the council tax.
This creates the fourth town council in the Dover district, after Dover, Deal and Sandwich.
Walmer is part of the Deal conurbation, east of the Dover to Deal railway line.
Walmer Parish Council was established in 1996 and before that the area had no third tier of local government. Dover town was in that position until its own authority was formed that same year.
A parish council can change its 'style' under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. This was introduced because so many new urban-based parish councils were formed at the time.
It can also change its name to town council under the Local Government Act 1972.
A report to councillors said: "The style of 'parish' has connotations of rurality, which may not be in keeping with the garden suburb layout of the area.
"There is a strand of thought that believes that the style Walmer Town Council will give the council enhanced status with the district and county councils."
But the report added: "There is no certainty that this will be borne out by experience."
The Vicar of Dibley, starring Dawn French, is a comedy TV show that began in the 1990s, about a fictional rural English parish.