To secure victory, it brushed aside competition from Birmingham, the 1995 winner, as well as Chester, Leicester, Oxford, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Stoke-on-Trent, Truro and Westminster, the other finalists from among the country's 58 cities invited to enter.
Peter Bird, chairman of the British Cleaning Council, who presided over the judging panel, said that what tipped the scales in favour of Rochester was 'the city's manifest commitment to maintaining consistently first-class standards in all the areas we looked at.
'While the main street was excellent in all respects - a minimal amount of litter, immaculate street furniture, and evidence of regular emptying of litter bins - the judges were also delighted to see that building interiors had not been neglected, unlike other cities where these have often been a let-down, with dusty city halls and poor exteriors to civic buildings.
Oxford earned its Special Award for its modern and dynamic approach to municipal cleanliness; high standards were achieved by 'wide-ranging and demonstrably effective partnerships with business, such as a two-year sponsorship by the Rover Group of the city's People and Places programme, along with a very pro-active approach to enforcement', said Mr Bird.
The Special Award for Portsmouth, a long-standing supporter of the 'Britain's Cleanest City' competition, recognised the local authority's enthusiasm and clearly visible effort to maintain cleanliness standards. In making a Special Award to Chester, the judges were particularly impressed this year, commented the BCC Chairman, 'by the wide range of initiatives in place, involving the community, local business, schools and even a police helicopter in a host of creative and high-profile schemes to maintain the high standards which were so apparent over a number of visits'.