A FORMER planning committee chair has described current requirements for applicants compiling Welsh language impact assessments as “farcical,” amid calls for more information to be provided on any potential detriment for local communities.
Cllr Elwyn Edwards, who recently completed his term heading the committee, has been a long-time advocate for planning reform in relation to the Welsh language.
The member for Llandderfel, in his role as a member of the Snowdonia National Park Authority, recently proposed a motion with the park calling on the Welsh Government to insist on planning permission being in place before a regular house can be turned into a holiday home.
But during a meeting of Gwynedd’s language committee on Thursday, Cllr Edwards turned his attention to the impact assessments currently compiled by applicants for major proposals within the county.
Before adoption in 2019, claims that changes to the local development plan would reduce the circumstances where such assessments are required resulted in fierce opposition from language groups.
Gwynedd and Anglesey Councils – which share the development plan – say the current policies are “sound” and assist the process of approving “appropriate developments.”
But Cllr Edwards has now urged the committee to debate the importance of the Welsh language in regards to planning matters, claiming it was long overdue.
He added: “In every single planning committee the applicant compiles their own language impact assessments.
“Having counted them myself, 70 assessments have been presented claiming their development won’t have an adverse effect on the Welsh language and it’s still going on.”
Cllr Edwards suggested that applicants should be compelled to provide “much more information” when compiling such assessments, including:
Levels of local inward and outward migration over the past five years; housing waiting lists; proposed price of any homes as well as those sold over the past five years; local median wages; the current strength of the language and the number of holiday homes in the community in question.
Cllr Edwards concluded:
“Why aren’t we going after that? The current situation is a complete farce.
“There’s an application in to build 60 homes in Bangor now and it will happen again, language officers seem to be in agreement with developers every time.”
Cllr Edwards requested that an item to discuss the issue be pencilled in for a future meeting of the language committee.
In response, the authority pointed to the adopted Supplementary Planning Guidance as part of the Joint Local Development Plan agreed to by both Gwynedd and Anglesey Councils.
Consideration of the Welsh language was said to have been “central” to the process of preparing the development plan.
“The truth of the matter is that there is a national lack of methodology for assessing the Welsh language when dealing with planning applications,” said Cllr Gareth Griffith upon its adoption in 2019.
“However, as the Welsh language is so important to both Gwynedd and Anglesey councils, we have decided to lead the way and develop a detailed methodology for assessing the impact on the language when deciding on planning applications, where relevant to that application.”
Anglesey Council planning portfolio holder, Cllr Richard Dew, added:
“We are confident that the policies of the Joint Local Development Plan are sound and will assist the process of approving appropriate developments in both counties.
“Significant work has gone into creating the new supplementary planning guidance. They will provide clear guidance to developers in dealing with the Welsh language and provide assurance that linguistic issues are receiving full and appropriate attention.”