THERE will an extra reason to celebrate this Yuletide season as the ‘City of Bangor’ is expected to be officially crowned with its new title before Christmas. The seaside town was awarded city status to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee and an official Conferment Ceremony to present the Letters Patent to the Mayor Karen Douglas on behalf of the council, will be held in early December, followed by a civic reception for council members, the Lord Lieutenant and other dignitaries.
Speaking at this week’s Corporate Services Committee meeting, council chief executive Stephen Reid said the Letters Patent, that will include the Ards and North Down Borough Coat of Arms, will be produced by the Crown Office, and are expected to be completed within the next 10 days. The council chief stressed the importance of ensuring the official presentation and ceremony was carried out in this landmark year and explained that following the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II revisions of the Royal Warrant and Letters Patent had to be carried out to recognise Prince Charles becoming King.
As part of the town’s upgrade to city status, councillors further agreed to consider spending £10,000 on replacing signs at four entrance points into Bangor, announcing to visitors and residents alike that they were entering a ‘Platinum Jubilee City’. Councillors also gave the green light to changing the name of Bangor Town Hall, situated in the picturesque surroundings of Castle Park, to Bangor City Hall whilst it is in use as a civic building.
As part of the Platinum City Jubilee transformation, committee members also asked for a further report to be brought back to consider naming a building or a place in Bangor and also other locations in honour of Queen Elizabeth.
Welcoming the official civic ceremony, councillor Jennifer Gilmour and alderman Wesley Irvine both asked what community events were being held to mark Bangor’s regeneration from a town into a city.
The DUP’s councillor Gilmour said the popular Sea Bangor festival had been married with the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June and won Royal seal of approval with a special visit by the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
She asked council officers to consider marking Bangor’s new city status in the wider community saying: “The conferment ceremony is the official element of us getting our Letters Patent and there will be a civic ceremony for the councillors. Will there be anything else for the rest of the residents of the city?”
Mr Reid stated that while there were ‘no specific plans for further events’ he said the local authority did hope to engage with the community. He said a Notice of Motion had been brought before the council asking officers to ‘make provision for community celebrations’ to mark the Coronation of King Charles on May 6, 2023. The cost of the Coronation celebrations will then have to be considered in the council’s forthcoming rate setting process.
Regarding the new signage, Alderman Wesley Irvine said it ‘made a degree of sense’ to change the signs in line with the new city status, despite the ‘shelf life of the signs’ meaning they were not due to be replaced until 2025. He said he looked forward to a further report being brought back to council outlining the costs and designs.
Green Party councillor Stephen Dunlop queried the ‘unplanned expenditure’ of the new signs saying: “I think it is great to have city status but I am aware of the criticism of unbudgeted expenditure given the cost of living crisis. I think the signage could wait for a period in the future.”
However Ulster Unionist councillor David Chambers urged the council ‘not to do things half-hearted’ saying ’it would be rather absurd to wait three years’ for the new signs. He said he was looking forward to seeing the designs and costs and the committee was ‘not committing to any costs at this stage’. Independent councillor Tom Smith said the local authority should ‘embrace’ Bangor’s new city status and install the new signs. He stated ‘the Green Party voted through a pay deal of £1.3m’ for council staff earlier this year and he was ‘not going to have any money saving lectures from the Green Party’.
Each committee decision must be ratified at a full council meeting at the end of the month.