Saturday 1 November 2014

Repentant sinners

The lead story on BBC Radio Cymru's main morning news bulletin yesterday was that Kevin Madge, the Labour leader of Carmarthenshire County Council had criticised the Welsh Government for failing to include the Welsh language as a material consideration in the Planning Bill now going before the Assembly. Golwg360 went a step further and ran a story saying that Kev had "condemned" the bill.

Post Cyntaf, the BBC's morning news programme, followed this up with live interviews with Cllr Calum Higgins (Lab) and Jamie Bevan, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg.

Jamie welcomed Kevin Madge's intervention, while Calum went into bat for Labour. The interviewer wondered if this wasn't a case of a Labour-run council criticising a Labour government. Well, yeah, actually no, said Calum. This was all about a local party drawing the government's attention to a local issue.

Hadn't Labour woken up to this problem rather later in the day, the interviewer wondered. Well, the Welsh government had ignored the opinions of Assembly Members who had wanted the bill to have teeth to protect the language, but the Assembly and the Government now had an opportunity to amend the bill, he said.

The thing that sparked this flurry of excitement was a letter Kevin Madge sent a few days ago to Carl Sargeant, the minister responsible for planning.

Writing the letter was one of the things Kevin Madge was tasked with when the Council passed a report produced by the council's own Census Working Group back in April. It seems that he had decided to delay writing because of a conference on planning and the Welsh language held in mid-July, although why it then took another three and a half months to put pen to paper is not clear.

The letter finally went out on 27 October, three weeks after publication of the Planning Bill, and the text (in Welsh) can be found at the end of this post.

It is a good letter with some detailed questions for Carl Sargeant to answer, but the only hint of criticism comes in just one line:

"We wish to express our disappointment that the Bill does not provide much on the Welsh language".

Carl Sargeant, or rather the civil servants who will be tasked with writing a response, will be as surprised as anyone at the new-found interest of Labour in Carmarthenshire in the Welsh language and planning.

When Carwyn Jones called on interested parties to provide their views on what should be in the revised TAN20 (the guidelines on the role of the language in planning matters) last year, Carmarthenshire County Council was presented with a motion calling on the Government to implement specific measures relating to assessing the impact of housing developments in Welsh-speaking areas.

The motion was wrecked by Calum Higgins who came up with an amendment (ironically 'gwelliant' or 'improvement' in Welsh), which kicked the matter into the long grass. As a result, Carmarthenshire County Council did not respond to Carwyn's call. Neither did the Council respond to earlier drafts of the Bill.

Not only did it dither and delay setting out its views, but Carl Sargeant's office will notice the difference between what Kevin Madge's council says and what it does.

Back in April 2013 Labour councillors steamrollered through a plan to build 289 houses on a site in Penybanc near Ammanford in the face of intense local opposition. The developer, based in the offshore tax haven of Guernsey, had permission to build 150 houses on the site, but wanted to cram more in. The council naturally obliged.

Penybanc was a rare example of councillors on the planning committee initially rejected a planning application recommended for approval. Another example was at Waungilwen near Drefach Felindre, also rejected partly because of the impact it would have on a Welsh-speaking community. In both cases the rejections were overturned with the block vote of Labour councillors and their Independent allies.

More recently the council approved plans to build another huge housing estate at Cross Hands. Phase One of this development will have 230 new homes, and only 12 of those have been designated as affordable.

Down in Llanelli the council has fought local opposition for years to push through a scheme for 355 houses at Stradey Park. Not one of those is designated as affordable housing.

In the Local Development Plan which has been grinding its way towards completion - for the last two years on Kevin Madge's watch - the council has increased the target number of houses it would like to build across the county to 15,700 in the period up to 2021, even though there has been a downward revision of the ludicrous population forecasts on which the plan was based. The council has, however, taken the opportunity to reduce the quota of affordable homes.

The LDP includes a paper on the Welsh language which claims to take the form of a language impact assessment. This is in fact a sweeping and generalised view of the county as a whole, and concludes that nobody needs to worry about large-scale housing developments as far as the language is concerned.

Not one of the many sites included in the LDP for development has been subjected to an analysis of what impact it would have on the local community, and as the Cross Hands case shows, the council is determined to press on with the development of massive new estates in one of the strongholds of the Welsh language - with barely any affordable housing to help local people.

Responding to the news of Kevin Madge's apparent U-turn yesterday, Rhodri Glyn Thomas (Plaid AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) said:

"So far Councillor Madge has appeared unwilling to act to protect the language.  If he is serious about protecting and promoting it through the planning system then he needs to stop the Local Development Plan process immediately.   He would have the full support of Plaid Cymru if he chooses to do this.  He only has to convince his own party that it should be done."

Cllr Alun Lenny (Plaid) added:

“It is a matter of considerable frustration that the Welsh language is not a statutory consideration in the planning system. When applications for large or medium sized housing developments in Welsh-speaking communities are submitted, no mechanism exists to allow the Planning Committee to consider the impact on the language as a factor when coming to a decision."

All eyes are now on Kevin Madge to see if he follows up his letter with action by bringing the LDP to a halt and campaigning hard for a better Planning Bill in the meantime.

The text of his letter to Carl Sargeant follows.


"Annwyl Carl

Yr iaith Gymraeg yn Sir Gâr a rôl allweddol cynllunio

Fel y byddwch yn ymwybodol mae’n siŵr datgelodd Cyfrifiad 2011 gwymp siomedig yn nifer y siaradwyr Cymraeg ar draws Cymru ond yn enwedig yn Sir Gâr lle gwelwyd canran y siaradwyr yn syrthio i 43.9% (o 50.3% yn 2001) gan olygu fod yr iaith mewn sefyllfa leiafrifol yn y Sir am y tro cyntaf yn ein hanes.

O ganlyniad, mae Cyngor Sir Gâr wedi cynnal dadansoddiad manwl o’r ffactorau sydd wedi dylanwadu ar y dirywiad ac wedi adnabod nifer o gamau i’w gweithredu gyda’r bwriad cychwynnol o atal y dirywiad ac wedyn i annog twf i’r dyfodol. Mae copi llawn o’r adroddiad ac argymhellion a gymeradwywyd gan y Cyngor Sir ym mis Ebrill 2014 ar gael trwy wefan y Cyngor.

Mae rhai o ganfyddiadau allweddol yr adroddiad yn ymwneud â materion cynllunio ac, er ein bod yn cydnabod fod y Cyngor Sir a Pharc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog yn arwain ar weithredu polisïau lleol, roedd teimlad fod angen canllawiau a chyfarwyddid cadarnach ar lefel genedlaethol i gefnogi ardaloedd tebyg i ni sy’n cael ein hystyried yn gadarnleoedd traddodiadol i’r iaith Gymraeg i wneud penderfyniadau cynllunio sy’n cefnogi cynaladwyedd ein cymunedau dwyieithog i’r dyfodol.

Nodaf isod yr argymhellion o’r adroddiad sy’n ymwneud â chynllunio a gofynnwn i chi ystyried sut y gallwch ein cefnogi ni i fynd i’r afael â’r heriau hyn sydd, yn ein tyb ni, yn chwarae rôl allweddol o ran sicrhau parhad yr iaith Gymraeg fel iaith gymunedol fyw yn Sir Gâr.

1. Bod Llywodraeth Cymru yn cynnwys yr iaith Gymraeg fel ystyriaeth faterol (material consideration) yn rhan o’r Bil Cynllunio a’r Bil Tai a sicrhau bod yr iaith Gymraeg yn cael ei integreiddio i’r broses o ymgysylltu â’r gymuned ynghylch materion cynllunio. Bod y Cyngor Sir yn gwneud trefniadau penodol i weithredu hyn.

Fe gyflwynwyd y Bil Cynllunio i’r Cynulliad ar 6 Hydref eleni. Dymunwn nodi siom nad yw’r Bil yn darparu llawer ynglŷn â’r iaith Gymraeg. O ran yr hyn sydd yn y Bil, bydd gofyn i Weinidogion Cymru paratoi a chyhoeddi Fframwaith Datblygu Cenedlaethol Cymru, bydd yn gosod y polisïau hynny maent yn ystyried sy’n addas. Bydd y Fframwaith yn cymryd lle Cynllun Gofodol Cymru. Mae hefyd darpariaeth yn y Bil i greu 3 Ardal Cynllunio Strategol posib yng Nghymru. Gan ystyried hyn, a fyddai modd i chi gadarnhau a bydd Fframwaith Datblygu Cenedlaethol Cymru a’r Ardaloedd Cynllunio Strategol yn destun Asesiad Effaith Ieithyddol? Mae gofyn bod Asesiad o Gynaliadwyedd yn cael ei baratoi ynghylch pob Cynllun, ac mae TAN20 yn nodi fe ddylai asesiad ieithyddol bod yn rhan o’r broses Asesiad Cynaliadwyedd yma.

2. Bod Llywodraeth Cymru yn cryfhau’r canllawiau i awdurdodau cynllunio yn Nodyn Cyngor Technegol (TAN) 20 o ran gofynion i fesur effaith cynllunio ar yr iaith Gymraeg yn enwedig yn y cadarnleoedd traddodiadol Cymraeg.

Byddai’n ddefnyddiol i awdurdodau cynllunio gael mesur effaith datblygiad ar yr Iaith yn sgil cais cynllunio yn ogystal â pan yn llunio’r Cynllun Datblygu Lleol. Gofynnwn i chi ystyried y pwynt yma.

3. Bod Llywodraeth Cymru yn darparu canllawiau pellach i awdurdodau cynllunio ar y mesurau lliniaru y gellir eu defnyddio i leihau effaith datblygiadau ar yr iaith.

Er ein bod yn cydnabod fod y wybodaeth sydd wedi ei ddarparu yn TAN20 ac yn y canllawiau ymarfer yn ddefnyddiol, byddai rhagor o wybodaeth ar ymarfer da yn y maes yma yn ddefnyddiol. Gofynnwn i chi ystyried datblygu canllaw o ymarfer da.

4. Bod Llywodraeth Cymru yn codi ymwybyddiaeth bellach i’r Arolygaeth Cynllunio, am effaith cynllunio ar ddiwylliant cymunedau penodol ac ar yr iaith Gymraeg yn enwedig yn y cadarnleoedd traddodiadol Cymraeg.

5. Bod Llywodraeth Cymru a’r Arolygiaeth yn ail ystyried y broses a ddefnyddir i ragweld y nifer o dai sydd eu hangen ar bob awdurdod er mwyn rhoi ystyriaeth i anghenion cymunedol penodol.

Byddwn felly yn gwerthfawrogi derbyn eich adborth a sylwadau ar ffyrdd rydych chi’n credu y gallwch ein cefnogi i symud y mater holl bwysig hwn ymlaen yn Sir Gâr. A fyddech mor garedig a chyfeirio eich sylwadau ac ymholiadau os ydych eisiau trafod ymhellach at Gwyneth Ayers, Rheolwr Polisi Corfforaethol a Phartneriaeth. Byddwn yn fwy na pharod i’m swyddogion i gwrdd gyda chi neu eich cynrychiolwyr chi i gytuno ar ffyrdd y gallwn gydweithio er mwyn sicrhau ein bod yn gweithredu.chaf ymlaen at dderbyn eich adborth.
Yn gywir,
Cyng. Kevin Madge,
Arweinydd Cyngor Sir Gâr


Anonymous said...

Too little, too late!

Anonymous said...

Kevin Madge and his group don't really care a damn about the language. If they did, where were they during the consultation period of the Planning Bill at the beginning of this year? No - the timing of Madge's letter speaks volumes. In the face of a Scottish massacre it's obvious that 'Welsh' Labour has been urgently instructed by HQ to court the votes of Welsh-speakers in a desperate attempt to take a seat or two off Plaid Cymru. A cynical and pathetic ploy.