Hopes for the future as city status bid rejected

Council chiefs and business leaders today insisted Dudley has a bright future and can become one of the top tourist destinations in the region despite losing out on a bid for city status.

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Council chiefs and business leaders today insisted Dudley has a bright future and can become one of the top tourist destinations in the region despite losing out on a bid for city status.

They admitted that more work needs to be done in the borough but said regeneration projects would see local towns transformed in the coming years.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg revealed the winners today with Chelmsford, Perth in Scotland and St Asaph in North Wales becoming cities.

Dudley’s bid, which covered the whole borough, not just Dudley town, attracted criticism from some residents who feared other towns such as Stourbridge would be overshadowed.

The council said city status would attract investment from businesses across the globe, and today insisted the application process had “helped Dudley get noticed”.

Recent figures showed Dudley had the highest proportion of empty shops in the country, at 35 per cent, while the Waterfront in Brierley Hill stands half empty after an application for a Government-funded enterprise zone was rejected last year.

But the council has outlined plans for its own enterprise zone and a £1 million business fund to support firms in the area and help create new jobs.

Dudley Council Leader Councillor Les Jones said: “City status would have given us a big boost and attracted investment but the bid itself has raised our profile.

“Everyone can see from the amount of projects we have ongoing at the moment that this is an exciting time for the borough. We will move on and keep working to make sure we have a bright future.”

Regeneration chief Councillor Angus Adams said: “I’m very disappointed, especially considering the towns that have won, as I feel Dudley has just as much to offer as them.

“City status gives an area prestige but I don’t think this will deter potential investors, and I’m happy with the impact that the bid has had.” He said the £10m project to revamp

Castle Hill in Dudley showed the borough was “punching its weight” and had ambitions to become one of the country’s top tourist destinations.

Under the regeneration plans a link road will be built between Dudley Zoo and the Black Country Living Museum, while a £6m archives centre will be constructed on the old Royal Brierley Crystal site.

Dudley Zoo Chief Executive Peter Suddock said: “Dudley put in a sound bid and many ideas were generated in the process so lets hope some of those will now become reality, regardless of the lost city tag. Here at the zoo we’ve still got a lot to celebrate as it’s our 75th anniversary and that Black Country favourite, the chairlift, will soon be up and running for people to have a grand view across Dudley town centre.”

Chief executive of Black Country Living Museum, Andrew Lovett, added: “Let’s not be too disheartened. It was a very competitive field but I am sure it was the right thing to throw our hat into the ring.”

In Stourbridge a £50m Tesco supermarket is being built on the site of the Crown Centre, with the dated Bell Street car park set to be demolished next month. A £5m glass museum is also planned in Wordsley.

Dudley North MP Ian Austin said: “Like everyone who grew up in Dudley I can remember the town’s better days, but I refuse to accept our best days are behind us. We need a new plan.”

Dudley chamber of commerce chairman and incoming president of the Black Country chamber, Paul Bennett said residents should “not be too despondent”. He added: “The bid has focussed the spotlight on Dudley and, if we are to drive forward our local economy, we have to demonstrate self-belief and ambition.”