Dominic Bareham, senior reporter
Thursday, November 22, 2012
A Norfolk market town could withdraw from a national quality of life movement after councillors questioned whether the scheme provided any benefits.
Diss town councillors said few residents had heard of the Cittaslow movement, which aims to preserve and enhance the traditional way of life in market towns, claiming cash provided by the project had made little impact on the town.
Cllr Julian Mason told a meeting on Wednesday (November 21): “My opinion is that we should not continue with it. When it talks about the common good and people working together I fail to see how Cittaslow has achieved that.”
The international movement, which literally means “Slow Town,” was started in Italy in 1999 and had its origins in the Slow Food movement as a way of preserving the traditional fabric of town centres against the influx of globalised retail brands.
But Cllr Mason added: “We don’t want to be a slow town, we want to be promoting our town as dynamic and not slow. No more than five towns have joined the movement from this country. We have had lots of money from Cittaslow for the town and it has gone nowhere.
“If you ask people in Diss what they think of Cittaslow, nobody knows anything about it.”
He said the town council should concentrate its efforts instead on the initiative to secure funding from the Portas Pilots project set up by high street guru Mary Portas to provide funding for improvements to town centres across the country.
However, Cllr Oliver Pilsbury-Gaunt said he attended a Cittaslow funded event in town and said he thought the scheme was “quite a good idea,” while Cllr Simon Olander said the public was “switched off” from a lot of things at the moment, partly due to the effects of the economic downturn.
Cittaslow volunteer Jane Trippett-Jones backed Cllr Pilsbury-Gaunt’s sentiments, adding since the town joined the movement in March 2006, Diss has attracted £200,000 funding, including EU money for Diss High School to set up exchanges with European schools and money for community groups, information boards in the Market Place and improvements to the park and benches in the town.
The current tourist information leaflet was produced with Cittaslow related cash, while a tai-chi class in the town has also received funding as a result of the initiative, she added.
“I just think it is a great thing to be in, we are lucky to have it and we should be looking to take it forward,” she said.
The movement has been joined by 140 towns in 25 countries, including Aylsham in Norfolk, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Mold and Perth.
A special meeting will now be held to discuss the Cittaslow situation, with a decision due to be made before the start of the next financial year.