What does Northampton need to be granted city status and what would it mean for the area?

As West Northamptonshire Council, considers whether to bid for city status we look at what it takes for a town to become a city

By Carly Odell
Thursday, 28th October 2021, 2:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th October 2021, 2:08 pm
Northampton could soon be a city if a bid is submitted and successful. Photo:: Kirsty Edmonds.
Northampton could soon be a city if a bid is submitted and successful. Photo:: Kirsty Edmonds.

City status is often associated with a cathedral, a university and a large population.

And many people often think it cannot be granted unless the place has all of the three.

But the decision is not always based around these features.

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Below is an explainer about city status bids and what it would mean if Northampton became a city.

Does a town need a cathedral?

Many small places such as Ely remain cities as historically cities were settlements with a cathedral, however a cathedral is not a requirement for city status, according to the UK Parliament website.

Birmingham was the first town without a cathedral to become a city in 1889.

Does local government structure affect a bid?

According to the UK Parliament, local government structures do not have direct connection to whether a place is a city, despite their names.

So the move to unitary authorities in Northamptonshire will not have an effect on a bid, if one is submitted.

How is a bid decided upon?

Any town can apply through its local council as formal city status is granted by the monarch on the advice of ministers.

In 2012 during the Diamond Jubilee competition, three places were awarded city status out of 25 towns that applied.

What does city status mean?

Receiving city status does not bring any benefits, extra funding or new powers for the local council - it simply gives a town the right to refer to itself as a city.

But, according to experts at the Open University (OU), the status can be a 'marker of identity and national significance' in terms of economy, culture, scientific knowledge and social advancement.

"Cities market themselves and are recognised as centres of commerce, heritage, creativity and other specialisms. Think of Edinburgh and cultural events such as the Fringe, or think of London and its stock markets. Being a city is to be elevated to a greater level of national significance," an OU spokesman told our sister paper MK Citizen.

How can I help with the campaign?

West Northamptonshire Council will work with partners over the coming weeks to consider and possibly put together a bid.

Northampton Labour Group has welcomed the campaign, although has also raised some concerns.

In the meantime, the authority is asking for residents to submit their favourite photographs of Northampton.

Submissions can be made on their website here.

Chronicle & Echo is also backing the campaign and is fully in support of a bid being submitted.

When will we find out if the bid is being submitted?

The national deadline to submit a bid is December 8, this year.

A full council meeting will be held on December 2, when councillors will make a final decision as to whether to submit a bid.

The winning cities are expected to be announced on Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee extended Bank Holiday weekend of June 2-5, 2022.