Colchester: City status rival Reading is branded ‘mundane’

THE woman who led Colchester’s bid for city status against more than a dozen other towns defended the project last night - after branding Reading, the red-hot favourite, as “mundane”.

The Berkshire town is reportedly so far ahead in the race to gain city status – which is being awarded to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – that bookmakers have stopped taking bets on other contenders, including Colchester. With just days to go until the decision is announced, the woman who led Britain’s oldest recorded town’s bid has come out fighting.

She branded Reading’s buildings and roads “mundane” and said that after visiting in the past, she would not want to go back.

Wendy Bailey, former chairman of Destination Colchester, the group behind the bid, said it was put together to help boost the town’s economy and draw visitors in.

“There are lots of rumours saying Reading is the leader but I think Colchester deserves to be a city,” she added. “It is already a city – it was made a city by the Romans and that has not been taken away.

“We have got so much history – you cannot take a step in Colchester without walking through history.

“Good luck to Reading, if you want mundane buildings and roads. I know Reading, I have been there a few times, but I wouldn’t want to go back.”

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Last night Jo Lovelock, leader of Reading Borough Council, said she would be “majestic” and rise above the criticism, preferring to promote Reading’s strengths. She said Reading had a “wonderful mix” of modern culture and history.

She said: “We are very proud of the way our communities work together and support one another. We have got everything from the Abbey, where a King of England is buried, to the Madejski Stadium, home to a football club pushing to get into the Premier League.

“I’m sad but I don’t know who’s made these comments. I haven’t been trucking around other potential cities, running them down. We have made a very good case for Reading.

“I’m sure all the contenders have good things to offer, we have a great cultural mix which makes us proud.”

Colchester, Britain’s former Roman capital, and Reading are among more than a dozen towns nationally that are in the running to become a city to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed a decision would be announced some time this month.

But Ladbrokes said it had closed its book on the race because it had taken “barely a penny” on any town apart from Reading.

Ladbrokes have rated Colchester as 20/1 outsiders to be awarded city status, alongside Chelmsford and above Southend at 22/1.

“Unfortunately, Colchester are among the outsiders,” said Jessica Bridge, a spokeswoman for Ladbrokes.

However, the logic for awarding Colchester city status is strong – the Office for National Statistics says Colchester will grow faster than anywhere in the country. It is expected to have 33,000 more residents living in the town by 2018, compared with 2008.

Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell, backing the bid, said: “Colchester is the only city from Roman times that is not a city today. Therefore, as there is no evidence that the status was ever taken away, I feel it would be appropriate for the title to be restored.

“Being a city will bring prestige to Britain’s Oldest Recorded Town, making us Britain’s Oldest Recorded City.

“It will not result in Colchester’s expansion being greater than is currently the case – so those who fear this would be the case are mistaken.”

Mrs Bailey resigned from Destination Colchester in January but remains a supporter of the project. Nobody from Destination Colchester could be contacted for comment last night.