Separated at birth: Brontë moor and Inca mountain

'They're more similar than you might think,' says Howarth's twinning group. And it's just one of a series of unlikely civic tie-ups

Municipal leaders were once content to cross the Channel and indulge in a weekend of fine wine, sun-kissed boulevards and the kind of food you couldn't get back at the town hall.

But there comes a point when twinning your town with a nice place in France or Germany just isn't enough. According to a survey by the Local Government Association, British towns are now looking to the furthest reaches of the planet to find their perfect partners.

The report shows that there is a burning desire among civic leaders to be seen as more cosmopolitan than their neighbouring parishes. And that has led to them targeting towns from Peru to China for potential tie-ups. This represents a break with the past, when most twinning was between Britain and its continental cousins.

Could there be more unlikely civic partners than Haworth, West Yorkshire, birthplace of the Brontë sisters and Machu Picchu on the Inca trail, for instance? Or how about Macclesfield, Cheshire and Vigan, the Philippines?

Yet, a spokesman for Haworth's Twin Town Group claims his town and Machu Picchu "are more similar than you might think. Both have populations of just less than 3,000, are 50 miles from the nearest regional capital and evoke past societies," he added.

Similarly it is hard to see at first what Nuku'alofa, the capital of Tonga in the South Pacific, has in common with Whitby in North Yorkshire, unless it's the fact that both towns once survived on the trade of fish, but twin town partners they are.

There are now 2,527 UK towns with links to 87 countries in the world, according to the LGA's survey, and more than a quarter of them are with towns beyond western Europe. Of these, 8 per cent are linked with former Soviet bloc countries, 7 per cent with the US, 5 per cent with Asia, 2 per cent with Africa and 1 per cent with South America and Oceania.

Among the more weird and wonderful twinnings are the UFO capitals of the US and Scotland, Roswell and Bonnybridge.

City bosses now look on twinning as a valuable means of creating partnerships with the new tiger economies to develop economic links, create jobs and stimulate investment.

"The changing face of both Britain and the rest of the world mean that the development of economic and cultural ties through town twinning is becoming ever more important," said Chris White, chairman of the LGA's culture and tourism board. "Councils are helping local people understand the different cultures and customs of dozens of different nations from across the planet."

Yet wherever there is town twinning, there is a fear that council leaders are merely attempting to lead a jet-set lifestyle. Manchester has ties to China, Pakistan, Nicaragua, and Israel, causing some to speculate that civic dignitaries are merely trying to develop a year-round tan.

Perfect partners?

Hay-on-Wye in Wales and Timbuktu in Mali

Whitby, North Yorkshire, and Nuku'alofa in Tonga

Stevenage in Hertfordshire with Chimkent in Kazakhstan

Manchester with Sulaymaniyah in Iraq

Haworth in West Yorkshire with Machu Picchu in Peru

Dundee, Tayside, and Nablus, West Bank

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power