WREXHAM has failed in its bid to be crowned a city for the third time.

The Cabinet Office announced yesterday the hotly-contested race to upgrade UK towns to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee has been won by Chelmsford in the south of England, Perth in Scotland and St Asaph in Wales.

This means, despite being North Wales’ largest town and the region’s industrial and commercial hub, Wrexham has been pipped at the post by the Denbighshire town with a population of just 3,400.

This comes on top of the disappointments for Wrexham’s bids in 2000 when cities were being created for millennium year and 2002 for the Queen’s golden jubilee.

It has been claimed that Wrexham Council went against the will of the people to launch the bid last year and never actually stood a chance of winning.

One leading councillor who was strongly opposed to the bid said the authority had been chasing “fool’s gold”.

Last year, the council carried out a public consultation exercise in which the 1,500 who responded came out two to one against an application being lodged.

Despite this, the council’s executive board went ahead with launching a challenge.

Cllr Mark Pritchard, lead member for housing, said yesterday: “The consultation was a Mickey Mouse poll which wasn’t based on a big enough sample to be accurate but those who took part were against going for city status.

“This means that in launching a bid the council went against the will of the people to go after fool’s gold.

“It was a disaster from the start – why enter a race you know you can’t win?”

Former Wrexham MP and AM John Marek said: “It’s no surprise Wrexham didn’t win because the council bungled the whole thing by putting in a bid after the public were shown to be against it.

“The Queen was not going to confer city status on a town where the people don’t support it.”

But the man who was leader of the council when the bid was launched defended the decision.

Aled Roberts, now Lib Dem AM for North Wales, said: “The bid was worked up by officers acting on a report accepted by the executive board.

“Despite not winning this time Wrexham is still Wrexham and whatever it is called still has the strength of its people.”

Derek Griffin, who was chief executive of the council at the time Wrexham launched its two earlier failed bids, said: “This is disappointing but hopefully next time we will be successful.

“I don’t think this is a snub for Wrexham, it’s just a process it has to go through.

“Congratulations to St Asaph, which has applied for city status many times – possibly more times than Wrexham.”

A statement from Wrexham Council said: “We are naturally disappointed by the announcement.

“Wrexham submitted an excellent bid and everyone can be proud that it was able to compete on the national stage alongside the deserving winners and we send our congratulations to them."”

Council leader, Cllr Ron Davies, was unavailable for comment.

A council spokesman added the bid had cost £2,027.72p, including the public consultation that took place prior to the decision to submit a bid.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: “The awards have been made by the
Queen on advice from the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

“The decision to award a new city in England, Scotland and Wales was made in recognition of the significance of every part of the United Kingdom in the Diamond Jubilee year; and reflects the high quality of the bids submitted.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: "Across the United Kingdom, I have been moved by the pride and passion which people have shown in putting their nominations forward.

"The standard of application was very high, and those who missed out should not be downhearted.”

The spokesman refused to reveal what criteria had been used to choose the winning bids and said Mr Clegg would be making no further statement on the selection process.

A spokesman for 10 Downing Street said the Prime Minister David Cameron would be making no comment as the matter had been handled by the Deputy Prime Minister’s office.

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas, who has been strongly in favour of the bid, said: “I am naturally disappointed. I would like to congratulate St Asaph on their winning bid.

“All of us in Wrexham must now work to ensure our town is seen as a positive place to live and work.”

Professor Michael Scott, vice-chancellor of Glyndwr University, said: “The announcement came with mixed emotions for the university.

“We are pleased that St Asaph will now be a city as it is home to one of our campuses. City status will help significantly in its growth as a major hub for world class science and technology research.

“However, we are disappointed that Wrexham has again lost out with its bid.

“A tremendous amount of hard work was put into the bid and it would have been a great boost for the town.

“With or without city status, though, Wrexham will continue to be the main economic driver for north east Wales and this is something everyone connected with Wrexham can take great pride in.”

David Roberts, chief executive of Wrexham FC, said: “It’s obviously disappointing and city status would have been something nice for Wrexham to achieve. However, it is something we can still go for in the future.”

Cllr Marc Jones, leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Wrexham council, said: “Congratulations to St Asaph on winning against the odds.

“There was little public support for city status in Wrexham and Plaid councillors opposed this bid.

“We now should be looking forward to cementing our status as the capital of North Wales and a proud market town fit for the 21st century.

Other towns beaten in the race are Reading, Medway, Middlesbrough, Doncaster, Bournemouth, Dudley, Milton Keynes, Luton, Gateshead, Bolton, Colchester, Southend, Croydon, Stockport, Tower Hamlets, Coleraine, Dorchester, St Austell, Corby, Craigavon and Goole

Readers have their say

Steve Hunt, 52, of Wrexham said: "I think it's an absolute joke. Wrexham is the largest town in North Wales.

“The fact that North Wales doesn’t have a large city is ridiculous.

“It leaves Wrexham still in the shadow of Chester.”

James Hobbley, 29, of Gresford: “I wouldn’t have expected we would get it this time as I don’t think we are quite ready, but losing to St Asaph is a bit of a kick in the teeth.

“I would be surprised if we don’t achieve city status within 10 years.

“The town has progressed so much, it’s completely different from what it was 10 years ago and I think we’re still progressing now.”

Mike Mullen, 66, of Wrexham: “I’m quite glad it went to St Asaph.
“St Asaph is the centre of Christianity and it has a beautiful cathedral.

“In my opinion Wrexham is a major town which doesn’t require city status.

“Investors will come if the authority and businesses market and promote the town correctly, we don’t need to be a city.”

Stephen Fong, 47, of Erddig: “I think it’s a great thing for Wrexham.

“The economic situation isn’t great at the moment and I don’t see how becoming a city would change that.

“It’s always been a market town and that’s how it should stay.”

Surprise winner 'deserves city status'

ST Asaph was a surprise winner in the title race to be crowned a city.
It has a population of around 3,400 – around a 15th of the size of fellow new city Perth.

It grew around its cathedral, originally founded in the sixth century. The place of worship is the smallest ancient cathedral in Britain – measuring just 182ft long and 68ft wide.

While nearby cities such as Liverpool and Manchester can boast giant shopping centres, St Asaph’s main retail complex is an out-of-town shopping outlet called Tweedmill that attracts around 500,000 shoppers a year.

And St Asaph’s main website lists just 21 premises in its shopping section.

The north Wales city’s team – St Asaph FC – play in the Vale of Clwyd and Conwy Premier League.

Their ground Roe Plas Meadows is a local park, with no stands or seating areas, and is where the local council use a committee room to stage their monthly meetings.

But church leaders in St Asaph rejoiced at the news – and said despite St Asaph’s size its big contribution to Welsh history should not be overlooked.

The Bishop of St Asaph, the Right Reverend Dr Gregory Cameron, said: “I am delighted these decisions are made not on the size of the population but on the quality of community life.

“St Asaph is a delightful community of which I am very proud to be a part.”

Town mayor Andrew Thomas also argued St Asaph deserved its city status.

“Size does not really matter as we have plenty to offer,” he said. “We have 4,000 people in employment, which is bigger than the number of people who live here. Not many places can boast that.”

However, although St Asaph’s city status may have been met with surprise from residents and non-locals alike, it is still not the smallest city in Britain.

That accolade still belongs to St David’s in Pembrokeshire, west Wales, which is home to just over 1,700 people.