Alarm Over Impact Of Property Development On The Future Of The Welsh Tongue

The damage to the Celtic language of Wales wrought by property development in Welsh speaking areas continues to be a principal concern of language activists and is again in the forefront of news on the Welsh language. Language campaigners are reacting with alarm to the Welsh Government’s draft legislation on an overhaul of Wale’s planning system proposed by Cardiff. Language activists charge that the proposed legislation will concentrate control over planning decisions in the hands of the National Assembly and distance local elected officials from the decisions which could have an adverse impact on the stability of Welsh Language areas.

In response to the governments proposed changes to planning regulations, the Cymdeithas yr laith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) have put forward an alternate Planning Bill. Under the headline “Tensions Mount Over Property Development in Welsh Speaking Areas – Damage To Language Condemned”, the website WalesOnLine quote Cymdeithas spokesmanToni Schiavone as follows: “It’s essential the Welsh language is made a statutory consideration in planning, so the language thrives over the years to come. Our proposals attempt to put the interests of communities first in order to tackle poverty as well as the problems facing the language and the environment. We have called for the planning system to be reformed as part of the six policy changes needed to deal with the crisis revealed by the Census results. We have now put our ideas, a number of them new and innovative, in the form of a bill.”

In October of last year Byron Davies, member of the Welsh Assembly, was quoted in news reports assessing the impact of housing development on the language. Davies stated that increased property development, in response to a proposal which was then before the Swansea Council, would "Marginalise Welsh in one it's heartlands". Davies continued, "Swansea Council says itself that Pontarddulais (Welsh speaking district) is a language sensitive area which at the moment has 40% of its population able to speak Welsh. If a lot more people move in, the percentage of Welsh speakers within the population as a whole will naturally fall and will drop below the level at which the language is viable.”

This question was also addressed early last year by Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws who stated: “The current situation where large housing estates are built without clear guidelines on how to measure their impact on the Welsh language is unsustainable. Hundreds of communities fear for the future of the language in their communities today because housing developments are undermining any attempt to sustain the Welsh language in those areas.”

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