Planning law ignores Welsh language – Rhodri

South Wales Guardian: RHODRI GLYN THOMAS:  "Welsh language census figures for Carmarthenshire are alarming." RHODRI GLYN THOMAS: "Welsh language census figures for Carmarthenshire are alarming."

AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas has expressed his disappointment that the proposed new Planning Law from the Welsh government "ignores" the Welsh Language, despite Assembly Members passing a motion to give greater emphasis to it within the planning system.

The former Government Heritage Minister's reaction comes almost year after a controversial planning application for 289 houses in Penybanc, near Ammanford, was approved by county planners.

Plaid County councillor Alun Lenny had proposed that an independent assessment of the proposed development's impact on the language be carried out, but the vote was lost and the application subsequently passed.

In June Assembly Members voted on a motion to place greater emphasis on the language within the planning system. Despite the motion’s endorsement by AMs, the proposed Planning Bill published by the Welsh government has no mention of the language.

Mr Thomas, who is in the process of establishing a task force to look at growing the local economy via the Welsh language, has strongly criticised the failure of the Welsh government to make the language a central point of planning law. He described the draft Bill as a "missed opportunity" and has vowed to do all he can to amend the proposed law as the Bill makes its way through the legislative process.

“Let’s be under no illusion: the Welsh language census figures for Carmarthenshire are alarming," he said. "We need a radical intervention from the local authority to turn around the declining number of Welsh speakers in the county.

"The recommendations of the committee, which is looking at ways in which the council can respond to the census figures, must be accepted and implemented in full by the leadership of the county council.

“One way in which the local authority can play a direct part in the language’s survival is through the planning process. But the poor record of the local planning authority when it comes to the Welsh language shows why the Welsh planning law must be strengthened. As things stand, the future of the language is not safe in the hands of county planners.

“Under the county council’s plans, Carmarthenshire will see around 15,000 new homes built in the near future. This is way beyond the needs of the county. Without strong and meaningful planning law this scale of development will undoubtedly impact on upon the language.

“The proposed Planning Bill is a missed opportunity to put the language at the heart of creating sustainable communities. I will make every effort to amend the Bill to strengthen the language’s position in planning applications before this Bill becomes law.

“I would urge as many people as possible who believe the language should form an integral part of the planning process to respond to the consultation and make their views known to the Welsh Government.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said “All Welsh Government policies and initiatives reflect the fact that Wales is a bilingual country.

"In the autumn we published updated guidance on how the Welsh language should be considered in the planning system, in particular when local development plans are prepared. 

“Proposals within the draft Planning (Wales) Bill are currently the subject of public consultation and we look forward to receiving responses before this closes on February 26.

"All responses will be considered thoroughly and will inform the bill which will be introduced to the National Assembly later this year.”

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