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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Planning for the Welsh language

The BBC report this morning that Ceredigion County Council have criticised for granting planning applications from Welsh speakers despite advice to reject them:

It came after Ceredigion councillors approved three applications against the advice of planners which were later rejected by the assembly government.

The assembly government's planning inspector said it was "discriminatory" to grant plans on a language basis.

But one planning committee member said it was trying to protect communities.

The incident came to light when one of the three approved applications was called in by the assembly government.

In a subsequent report, planning inspector Ian Osborne said it would be "discriminatory" to grant permission solely on the grounds the applicant was a Welsh speaker.

"Whilst the planning system should take account of the needs and interest of the Welsh language, the fact that the applicant is a local, Welsh-speaking person active in the community does not outweigh the environmental harm," said Mr Osborne.

"Moreover it would be discriminatory to grant permission solely or largely on the grounds that the applicant is Welsh-speaking."

Ceredigion Council's senior planning officer Aled Richards has warned the council's planning committee that it could lose its planning powers if it continued to take decisions that breached regulations.

"We have to take this very seriously," he added.

"What's happening is that time and time again we refer to the fact that the applicant is a local Welsh speaker. We have to look at the application, not the applicant."

But Cllr Lyndon Lloyd who sits on the planning committee said he disagreed with Mr Osborne's comments.

"We have assembly government ministers saying there should be policies in rural areas that rely on positive discretion, and then we have comments from Mr Osborne that seem so rigid," he explained.

"All we're trying to do is stand up for our young people and our communities. There seems to be a lack of awareness of that in Cardiff from the assembly's officials."

Although the treatment of these applications by Councillors appears to be rather perverse there may well be issues that Ministers wish to look at. After all in the past Plaid Cymru have made the linking of planning to the Welsh language a key issue in their campaigning. No doubt their ministers will now want to consider whether they want to revise planning policy guidance to meet the objectives of those Councillors who supported these applications.

Interestingly, the One Wales document is silent on this issue.
Nothing ever ceases to amaze me about Planning anomalies in Ceredigion County. Of course it is totally wrong to judge an individual planning application on the merits of for or against the language an applicant speaks. However, Planning Legislation does allow Councillors and Planning Officers to take into account the impact of a development (generally a large development) could have upon a community - including the impact on the culture and language of that community. In Swansea some nine years ago there was a furious debate in a planning committee when it considered an application for about sixty new houses on a brown field site in the Welsh speaking village of Pontarddulais. The recommendation of Officers was to Approve. All the Councillors agreed, bar one Independent who objected, saying it should go ahead, but over a phased period of six years - releasing not more an impact of ten new houses into the tight cultural Welsh speaking community of Pontarddulais. The Legal Officers of the Authority said that was a legally valid arguement, but the all the other Councillors present claimed it was "racist" and accused that Independent Councillor of racism. Let's open this debate. Is it racist to legally defend the Welsh Language? The Plaid Cymru party in Swansea do nothing to support "Yr Iaith Gymraeg" - so can others enter the fray on this debate.
I have to say that I don't think that people in Wales are only 'local' if they speak Welsh and that planning decisions should not be swayed on the basis of the applicant's language.
Using the language as the basis for decision making is Institutional Racism - as is the Welsh Language Act.

(If this doesn't provoke a lively response, nothing will)
Planning authorities? Institutional racism?

Never! Surely not!
I have been strong supporter of the Welsh language. Until I read an exchange of letters in the Western Mail over the Museum of Welsh Life’s policy that its assistants must be Welsh speaking. First, because he described himself as a “monoglot English speaker” it was assumed that he was English! (Which his letter did not even imply!) Does that imply that English speakers are not Welsh at all? Why should this person be excoriated for daring to criticize a policy that discriminates against three quarters of the Welsh people? And yes may be a child may wish to have his or her question answered in its native tongue. It is more probable that they get either a blank stare or a straight “Yn I Ddim” I find it hard to get an answer to a question in either language from some of them.

It’s a pity that there is probably no AM in the Assembly that has the “cojones” to denounce this policy of discrimination.
Ceredigion is an extreme case of naive introspection. It is not self-sufficient economically, & the Council seems to regard its major function as generating subsidy from the rest of the UK & the EEC.

Having got those areas to fund it, the council & minority pressure groups attempt to put up walls to protect the county from anyone external -- & that includes other folk born in Wales, but not Welsh speaking.

They rail against investment & commercial development, have not one mile of dual carriageway in the county, & are surprised that their children move away as Ceredigion has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the UK -- due to limited work & little major investment. Then their Head of Education today demands that all Ceredigion schools are taught in Welsh.

Don't know about you, but I've never signed a million-pound plus contract in Welsh. I've done many in English, & some in French.

What can possibly help the Ceredigion local & regional politicians & planners come to terms with the reality that the only way they can help their communities is to encourage work for their youngsters, & to treat growth as a saviour, not a threat.

Just think -- more folk in the village may save the school, the post office, the corner store, the outpourings of local families over the border or far away....... fanatisicm over the language protects none of the above, & merely raises the cost & resource barrier against businesses investing in Ceredigion.

I'm one business owner who walked away, & looked at the more realistic policies (& better communication) of Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire. We were effectively told by Ceredigion planners "we'll take your money for the business, but forget any likeliehood of a house of the type your used to".

Wife didn't go much on that -- easy to get suitable house back in S or SW Wales, Southern England -- or in Oz -- much cheaper, & with sun! Exit the cash & jobs ....
Ceredigion is rightly criticised as being naive. It is also narrow minded in its views on planning. Its own planning officers carried out a housing needs survey in 2004, which has been updated, and reported that 19% of housing stock, both council and private, was unsuitable. Affordable housing is a big issue nationally and Uk and Assembly governments are pressing councils to release more land for building but the blockage is at county level. A very similar county-Gwynedd took this stance due to it being in the Welsh speaking heartland and suffering badly, like Cerdigion , from inward migration of wealthy householders who outbid locals for property. They have now modified their planning criteria and abandoned the Welsh language priority and are making some progress. BUT, there is a long way to go and meanwhile many people live in misery in expensive unsuitable accomodation. When are councils going to be more practical about sustaining communities?
what language you speak has nothing to do with planning and is another fine example of the institutional racism being implemented by plaid cymru, living in the ceredigion and powys area i can safely say that this is what you get when you consistently vote for far right plaid cymru councilors. These racist rules are apparent in other areas of welsh law for example education, grants etc. it is time that people stopped tollerating the blatant racism before it gets out of control. i want to live in Wales not Nazi germany.
The whole planning process in Ceredigion is a total disgrace. Some applicants get the support of councillors on the planning commitee, and others in very similar situations get nothing but a raw deal.
Can anyone explain to me who is running the planning show in Ceredigion, is it the councillors on the planning commitee, or the qualified planning officers.
I have battled unsuccessfully to build a house for the last 7 years,
and it makes me bitter to see some applicants getting full support from councillors against planning officers recommendations.
What is good for the goose, is good for the gander, I would prefer to see everyone treated fairly when it comes to planning decisions, and the only way forward is to put an end to councillors meddling;and let the plannning officers have total control. At least it would end the injustices metted out on a regular basis.
PS I am a Welsh speaker, but it has not been any help to me.
Planning is all about who you know !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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