Ely changing lanes for life as a slow city

PUBLISHED: 12:14 28 September 2006 | UPDATED: 12:02 04 May 2010

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

TOWNS and cities across the world are swapping life in the fast lane for a slower pace. Now Ely is taking a leaf out of their books and looking at the advantages to be gained from embracing the Italian concept of Cittaslow. LESLEY INNES looks at the conc

TOWNS and cities across the world are swapping life in the fast lane for a slower pace.

Now Ely is taking a leaf out of their books and looking at the advantages to be gained from embracing the Italian concept of Cittaslow.

LESLEY INNES looks at the concept, which was born in Italy 20 years ago and now has 80,000 members in 104 countries.

ELY could be about to take its first step to becoming a 'slow city' and changing the lives of its thousands of residents and visitors.

On Friday, October 6, the city will play host to the president of the Cittaslow UK movement, Graeme Kidd, to learn more about a way of life which gives people the chance to find a less stressful lifestyle. Graeme is also the mayor of Ludlow, Britain's first town to embrace the Cittaslow concept.

Ludlow was closely followed by Aylsham in Norfolk - at risk of turning into a dormitory town for Norwich before joining Cittaslow. Now the council, town and community groups have started putting the community life back into the Aylsham, promoting the local shops and businesses and it is thriving.

Diss in Norfolk has followed suit and towns across Britain are considering the benefits of Cittaslow for their residents. Ely county and district councillor Nigel Bell, who suggested the possibility of the city becoming a member of the Cittaslow movement, said: "This is a very modern approach. It is about sustainability. It's about how Ely can develop as a place, promoting local shops, foods and a quality of life.

"People are living at too fast a pace. Everything is grabbed on the run. It's about appreciating what is good in life and not just rushing about.

"Ely isn't going to compete as a city with a large range of shops but it can compete with the quality of its centre, its small, individual shops and its open spaces."

Cittaslow grew out of the slow, as opposed to fast, food movement in Italy and promotes the healthy benefits of eating local produce, encouraging trade in locally-grown foods to create a healthy town economy.

In the UK, a Cittaslow town assigns up to 60 goals which help people set their sights on providing services and delivering projects that allow residents to enjoy life in their town or city in a relaxed and pleasant way. The lifestyle respects tradition and quality and seeks to use the best aspects of the modern world to enhance, preserve and enjoy the old way of doing things.

But it doesn't seek to create museum towns, exclude progress or avoid change. It encourages people along a less frantic path in everyday life and aims to preserve the environment and local traditions for future generations. To be eligible to become members, towns or cities must have a population under 50,000. If they pass an initial assessment, they have their applications evaluated by Cittaslow UK and by representatives of Slow Food UK before they are accepted into membership.

Once accepted, member towns pay an annual membership fee, with income shared between Cittaslow UK and the Italian headquarters.

Cllr Bell added that Ely already promotes a number of the Cittaslow ideals, including its bi-monthly farmers' market and French market which draws shoppers from far and wide.

He said: "Ely is unusual in that it is small enough to be included in Cittaslow. It has the potential to be much more on the map for people visiting the areas and those moving here.

"We have to promote what is good and individual here."

INFO: Anyone interested in finding out more about Cittaslow can visit the official UK website at www.cittaslow.org.uk.

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