GATESHEAD is making a bid to become a city. The borough’s council hopes to gain city status as part of its drive to promote the area and gain an equal footing with Newcastle.
The bid is part of Gateshead Council’s Vision 2030 strategy, to push its aspirations for the town over the next 20 years.
Council chiefs say attractions like the Baltic and Angel and planned improvements to the town centre will make it a real contender to be called a North East city, along with Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham.
Coun Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council said: “Over recent years Gateshead has become one of Europe’s biggest regeneration success stories and we feel that the time is right to become a city. I think most of our residents already feel like they are part of a city so we should be looking to make it official. This will be a long process but with developments such as The Sage Gateshead, Baltic, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the planned redevelopment of the centre of Gateshead we should be looking to make this a city to be proud of.”
Being called a city brings with it no legal rights, but carries a level of prestige.
It is commonly thought only towns with a cathedral and university, or a certain number of people, can become a city, though this is no longer the case.
Sunderland, for example, which was made a city in 1992 on the 40th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne, has no cathedral.
Nowadays the decision is based on a variety of criteria and each town’s application assessed on its merits. History, regional significance and a forward-looking attitude are all said to be attributes which could help a town gain city status.
Gateshead hopes to be in the running to be awarded city status in 2012.
Last year Gateshead Council announced its 20-year plan to revamp the run-down town centre.
The vision of the Gateshead Centre Regeneration Delivery Strategy was for “continental-style” homes, surrounded by tree-lined boulevards and a city park.
One aim of the strategy, which will be used as the blueprint for redeveloping the core of the town over the next 15 to 20 years, is to realise the dream of making Gateshead a city by at least making it look like a city.
Coun Henry said: “We’ve already developed a future strategy for even more regeneration across Gateshead and becoming a city will help us compete on a national and global scale.
“In most of the areas needed to gain city status, such as economic impact, we are already working hard on improvements – so it makes sense to try to become a city in our own right.
“Gateshead has always been a forward-looking, ambitious council and our next step is to match that by establishing a buzzing, landmark city that will excite people across the region and the rest of the country.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Jonathan Wallace said: “I think it’s a great idea and I would give it my full backing.
“The town centre is changing, it is being radically rebuilt. It is evolving and moving on from the mistakes of the 1960s.”
A rare honour
THE Queen is responsible for awarding city status, advised by Government ministers.
City status is a rare mark of distinction granted by the monarch after a "competition".
It is up to the Queen to decide when a competition for city status should be held, but they are usually held on occasions such as important Royal anniversaries.
The Golden Jubilee in 2002 was the last time city status was awarded, to Preston in England, Newport in Wales, Stirling in Scotland, and Lisburn and Newry in Northern Ireland.
Gateshead has long dreamed of becoming a city and gaining equal status to Newcastle, which is a member of the Core Cities Group, a coalition of England’s major regional cities. According to the 2001 census Gateshead had a population of about 200,000, compared to Newcastle’s 260,000.