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Guildford Launches Its Third Attempt For City Status

Published on: 20 Oct, 2021
Updated on: 29 Oct, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

Prominent local figures gathered at Guildford Cathedral yesterday (Tuesday, October 19) to cheer on Guildford’s bid for city status.*

The national competition to celebrate the platinum jubilee of the Queen in 2022 will close on December 8. Guildford is said to be only town in Surrey to be entering the competition.

Guildford Borough Council is leading the #BackOurBid campaign in the third attempt to change from Guildford town to Guildford city.

Supporters of the bid for city status for Guildford gathered in Guildford Cathedral.

The leader of the council, Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch), said: “It’s been overwhelming to receive such incredible pledges of support from so many groups and individuals across Guildford and beyond including politicians, the University of Surrey, Surrey County Council, our Business Improvement District, residents, local businesses, local dignitaries and faith groups. It is definitely something we all seem to agree on.”

However, the bid is not without its detractors.

12-year-old Ruby Moulden has started a petition against the city status bid.

12-year-old Ruby Moulden has launched her own campaign with a petition “Don’t waste time and money applying for city status for Guildford”.

Ruby said: “Guildford doesn’t need to be a city, so why are we doing this?”

A town trader who wished to remain anonymous said: “Guildford is seen as a prosperous rural market town. Becoming a city could change that image which may not be as attractive to visitors.”

Supporters for city status include the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, Professor Max Lu; the Mayor of Guildford, Cllr Marsha Moseley; and Lord Onslow.

Joss Bigmore said the campaign would be low cost and “mostly on social media and through word of mouth”.

He added: “We believe it will create a buzz, inspire national and international tourism, civic pride and stimulate inward investment and new business opportunities which will drive much needed economic prosperity.”

From left: the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, Prof Max Lu; the president of the University of Surrey’s Students’ Union, Ajay Ajimobi; and the leader of Guildford Borough Council, Joss Bigmore; supporting the #backourbid campaign.

City bid supporter, Dianna Gwilliams, Dean of Guildford said: “We are one of only two Cathedral towns in the country. 41 out of 43 cathedrals serve cities.”

Business leaders welcomed the opportunity for investment. Amanda Masters, CEO of Experience Guildford, said it would help to attract inward investment and “further highlight us as a desirable destination for businesses, small and large, to set up shop and thrive.”

Stuart Alexander, from marketing agency Big Mouth Guildford, was positive about the city bid, saying: “There’s going to be a 50/50 divide with people that like the idea of us being a market town and what a market town represents.

“I believe that the town can only prosper and be a better place by being a city. So hopefully we will win the doubters round. I think there are more positives than there are negatives.”

*Please note: at the time of publishing this story the link in the opening paragraph, Guildford’s bid for city status, was not working on Guildford Borough Council’s website. It was said the issue would looked into on Thursday (October 21).

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Responses to Guildford Launches Its Third Attempt For City Status

  1. David Wragg Reply

    October 21, 2021 at 11:09 am

    Surely Guildford can be both a market town and a city?

    Examples of places that are both include Salisbury and Norwich.

  2. Peter Mills Reply

    October 21, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    I read this wondering what the point is of becoming a city, and I still am.

    Various interviewees suggested inspire tourism, inward investment and highlight Guildford as a desirable destination for businesses, yet the article carries no factual evidence to support these claims.

    It might make a good follow up piece of journalism that could inform your local readers and help them decide whether to support this activity or not. Also, it would be useful if anyone reading this who supports the change could post their evidence here. I for one would like to understand the real benefits and see them quantified using data from other towns that have become cities.

  3. Valerie Charles Reply

    October 24, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    I am very surprised that so many people are standing close together on this photo without masks on. Surely this is dangerous in the current climate?

  4. Dave Middleton Reply

    October 24, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    I’m neither for or against the change of status, but I do feel that Cllr Bigmore and the other councillors involved do not have the right, or authority, to make such a bid without putting it out to full and proper consultation among the people of Guildford.

    Simply seeking expressions of support is not enough.

    A full consultation in the form of a local referendum on the matter should be carried out, with the wish of the people heeded.

  5. David Roberts Reply

    October 26, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    Rochester in Kent lost its city status in 1998 owing to an administrative oversight during a local government reorganisation. For four years no one even noticed.

    One does wonder what the point is. No doubt we will soon see business arguing that, if Guildford is a city, it needs to be an economic growth hub with fancy new knowledge-based, value-added jobs requiring masses of new housing in the countryside.

    This kind of boosterish clap-trap needs to be slapped down. It is antithetical not only to residents’ wishes and quality of life but also to climate responsibility and regional “levelling up”.

  6. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 27, 2021 at 6:19 am

    This appears to be nought but a vanity project by GBC. They would do better focus on the blight of overdevelopment in our villages, and the promised review of the local plan, which seems to be going nowhere.

  7. M Smith Reply

    October 29, 2021 at 9:39 pm

    Can anybody explain what becoming a city would actually mean for us residents? I suspect that it’s no more than an ego trip for the council and the jolly important people who attended the cathedral jamboree, but I’d be happy to be corrected.

  8. Charlie Nicholls Reply

    November 8, 2021 at 12:12 pm

    Council tax in cities is much higher than in towns. Towns that have become cities have suddenly had council tax increases.

    Is the public aware of the extra costs to them for very little personal gain? One minute the council has no money and is having to make cuts to the services we do have but now has money to chuck at this.

    We do not even have a bus service that serves Guildford and its surroundings adequately. My local bus service was taken away and replaced with one that meets the needs of the university while ignoring the wider community that it had served for many years previously. We have no older people’s centre in the town centre.

    Now in Park Barn, it takes most users two buses (if you can get them) to get into Guildford and one out again. It can take up to an hour to reach only to find places limited and no access. The transport systems are not linked, People are complaining about the state of the roads and number of potholes. Children’s services are closing. How come the council keeps saying there is no money in the budget and these things have to be cut.

    There are better ways to spend this money than just on changing a name. This will cost the people of Guildford far more in taxes than they, as individuals, will get back.

    The “City Campaign” keeps citing extra tourism yet we will still only have the same attractions we have now as a town regardless of whether we call it a town or a city. As Shakespeare noted hundreds of years ago “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”.

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