Friday 11 December 2009

Planning and the language

I've referred previously to the Carmarthenshire Draft LDP. Another aspect of this which deserves more attention is its objectives in relation to, and potential impact on, the Welsh language.

Carmarthenshire still has a majority of Welsh speakers – just. Notwithstanding the apparent determination of the county council, aided and abetted by the Welsh Assembly Government, to reduce the commitment to the language in the field of education, there is no obvious reason why the language should not be able to hold its own, or even recover, in the county.

Planning is one of a number of factors in this, but in this respect, the proposed LDP is weak in three aspects.

Firstly, it refers to "language sensitive areas" where "Linguistic Impact Assessments" will be required. It does not, however, spell out which areas are to be regarded as "language sensitive", nor even what the criteria for defining them might be. And in a county which is on the tipping point for Welsh ceasing to be a majority language, it is not immediately obvious to me why any part of the county would be other than "language sensitive".

Secondly, the council's favoured option for development is to concentrate new developments in the major towns. Real support for the language must include enabling our young people to stay in their own communities where they wish to do so, and that involves a degree of development – both residential and industrial – being dispersed rather than concentrated, since the language tends to be in a stronger position in more rural areas. In short, the favoured option does not seem to me to be the one most likely to help retain and promote Welsh as a community language.

Finally, their proposed indicator for assessing the success of their policy in relation to the language is "the number of planning applications determined where a Language Impact Assessment has been required". For me, this misses the point entirely. I don't really care how many assessments are carried out which is what they are proposing to count. I'm far more interested in what those assessments say and what is actually done in response to them.

In the field of planning, as in the field of education, Carmarthenshire County Council is displaying a complete lack of any real commitment to the future of the language. In an area like Carmarthenshire, that is not just a lost opportunity – it is little short of a tragedy.

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