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Councillors voice concerns over Medway Council's bid for city status

Councillors have voiced their concerns over an area's bid to become a city.

Medway Council is in the process of applying for city status for a fourth time; the honour will be conveyed to winning bidders as a way of celebrating the Queen's Platinum Jubilee next year.

Rochester Castle and Cathedral. Picture: Geoff Watkins/Aerial Imaging South East
Rochester Castle and Cathedral. Picture: Geoff Watkins/Aerial Imaging South East

Councillors were presented with a report outlining the basis for this year's city status bid which will centre around celebrating the Medway Towns' naval history, its universities, links to Charles Dickens and attractions including Chatham Historic Dockyard, Rochester Castle and Cathedral.

Its competitors for city status include Swindon, Reading, Dudley, Milton Keynes, Boston and Dorchester.

Separately, the council found out they had not made the long list of places being considered for City of Culture in 2025 last week.

The city status contest was discussed at a meeting of the council's regeneration, culture and environment overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday.

Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con) said he would be interested to know the cost of the bid, adding: "I've got no interest in becoming a city, I'm not violently against it but I have got zero enthusiasm because I lived in London with smoky, cramped accommodation and I just don't rate the quality of life in cities.

Cllr Rupert Turpin, Medway Council
Cllr Rupert Turpin, Medway Council

"If we are putting up loads of tower blocks and think that's going to make us a city, then it's going to be very uncomfortable living for lots of people.

"If we are becoming a garden city, that's a different matter; I think those places that have determined they want to become garden cities have said in that designation they want low density housing and high quality of life as a high priority and that I would be very much more supportive of."

He also said he thought Medway was in a weakened position not having its own university; Kent, Canterbury Christ Church, and Greenwich, all have campuses in Chatham but their main bases are elsewhere.

Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), said whilst he disagreed with Cllr Turpin's comments, he recognised his feelings would be echoed by some residents.

He said: "What he's tapping into is the cynicism that I think exists within a lot of communities in Medway.

Cllr Andy Stamp. Picture: Medway Council
Cllr Andy Stamp. Picture: Medway Council

"The fact that there's a perception that not every individual, or not every community, is benefiting from Medway's regeneration, that is why there's likely to be a lot of cynicism in relation, not only to the city status issue, but why there was probably a lot of cynicism in relation to the City of Culture bid, which I have to say, was very good."

He also called for a full review into the City of Culture bid.

Richard Hicks, the council's director of place and deputy chief executive, said: "The greatest cities around the world are made up of a patchwork of individual communities, and actually this bid will be about celebrating those individual communities.

"But it's not just the five towns, it is the Peninsula, it is the villages, it is those communities right the way across Medway."

He added: "We never kind of throw money around, we will be ensuring that this is actually just something around officer time in terms of putting this bid together."

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