Dominic Bareham, senior reporter
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Chiefs from an international quality of life movement could soon visit a Norfolk town which is considering withdrawing from the tourist initiative because it did not provide any benefits.
Italian representatives from the Cittaslow scheme, which means “Slow Town,” are hoping to visit Diss within the next month to discuss concerns raised by town councillors the scheme provided little in return for the £1,500 invested annually by the council to keep the status.
Councillors are planning to hold a special meeting to discuss the possibility of cutting the funding for Cittaslow, which was set up to be a badge of quality for market towns aiming to help attract tourists and funding.
Town Mayor Graham Minshull told a meeting of the council’s tourism, leisure and communities committee on Wednesday the decision was not whether Diss should remain a Cittaslow town or not, but whether the council should continue to fund it.
Following the meeting, he said he had not seen any evidence Cittaslow membership had helped draw in visitors from abroad and said although the town had initially received a £100,000 grant after joining the scheme he did not feel there had been much long term difference and questioned whether the council should continue to pay for membership during a time of economic difficulty when budgets were being cut.
He said: “We have to ask the question what do we get for our money? When we first started in 2006 it was a very good and well supported idea, but after the last few years it has fallen off and fallen off and nobody seems to want to do anything with it and we have got to ask the question whether the money would be better spent on local projects rather than sending the money off to Europe.”
Mr Minshull also said most people he spoke to in Diss had never heard of the Cittaslow movement.
The initiative 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.
The movement has been joined by 140 towns in 25 countries, including Aylsham, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Mold and Perth.