Get moving to save ‘slow town’ status

Diss residents have been given three months to form an independent Cittaslow committee or Diss Town Council will cancel its £1,500 a year subscription.

Diss was granted Cittaslow status in 2006, but at a special meeting of the council on Wednesday, it was unanimously agreed that unless volunteers could show how passionate they were about promoting the status for the town, the council would not be renewing its membership.

The meeting came after many councillors questioned what Cittaslow does for Diss, and whether local people understand what it is.

Councillor Julian Mason said: “If this movement is so great, why are there only five towns in the UK that have bothered to join it?”

If a committee is formed within three months, councillors agreed they would pay the subscription for a further year to give volunteers time to find their feet, but after that year they would be responsible for their own funding.

Diss mayor Graham Minshull said the council would still offer support to the committee and that they would be able to apply for council grants like any other local groups.

Cittaslow (slow city or town) was formed in Italy in 1999 and is an acknowledgement of the commitment of community members who make their town a healthier, greener, happier and slower place to live.

Supporters of Cittaslow argued its benefits at the meeting, many of whom were members of the original Cittaslow committee, which was subsequently absorbed into the council’s tourism, leisure and communities committee.

Cynthia Sheers, the committee’s original coordinator, said she was “shocked” that it had come to this.

“I just think it’s incredibly sad if we just throw it all out now,” she said. “I’m very happy to help as a volunteer and support Cittaslow projects.”

Councillor Tony Palmer said that while he agreed they had taken their eye off the ball in promoting Cittaslow, the status had attracted at least £200,000 of funding for Diss, which had helped Diss High School and other community groups.

The town’s membership is due for renewal in May, so volunteers have been given until May 1 to show their interest.

Mr Minshull, added: “I think the problem we face is that over the years the Cittaslow movement in Diss has gone from a very viable group to it just sitting in the background. If the public are not prepared to back it then it’s time to call it a day.”