[lg policy] New blow for Welsh language communities from European courts: A European Court of Justice ruling for the Flemish region of Belgium may have an impact on Welsh language communities

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 21 14:21:22 UTC 2013

 New blow for Welsh language communities from European courts  21 May 2013
05:44 <http://www.walesonline.co.uk/by-date/21-05-2013>

A European Court of Justice ruling for the Flemish region of Belgium may
have an impact on Welsh language communities
    A European Court of Justice ruling for the Flemish region of Belgium
may have an impact on Welsh language communities

Planning policies aimed at protecting the Welsh language have received a
blow as a European court ruling appeared to make it more difficult for
authorities to implement them.

The ruling comes as two campaign groups expressed concern at what they see
as the lack of protection afforded by the Welsh Government to the language.

A judgement issued by the European Court of Justice in a case brought
against the Flemish region of Belgium concluded that a stipulation that
property must be sold to local people was an infringement of freedom.

It said: “Such a measure may ... discourage residents of one member state
from making investments in immovable property in other member states, and
thus constitutes a restriction on the free movement of capital.”

Gwynedd property consultant Evan Owen said: “This ruling confirms that
authorities which try to stop people buying property on affordability or
language grounds are acting unlawfully.

“In my view, the Welsh Government’s affordable housing policy is dead.”

A Welsh Government spokesman responded: “We aim to provide more housing of
the right type and offer more choice. This includes communities’ needs for
affordable housing.

“Our planning policy therefore requires local planning authorities to
address their identified need for affordable housing in planning their
provision for housing, while recognising the constraints of the market.

“To achieve this local authorities should assess the need for affordable
housing in their area and take this into account in formulating their
policies and in taking decisions on individual applications.”

“This includes ensuring that the affordable housing provided remains
accessible to those who cannot afford market housing.”

Meanwhile the Welsh Government came under fire from two Welsh language
groups for refusing to call in a decision to grant permission for the
construction of nearly 300 houses at Penybanc, near Ammanford.

Dyfodol i’r Iaith (Future of the Language) had asked Carl Sargeant, who has
responsibility for planning, to call the application on the grounds that it
would harm the Welsh language in Carmarthenshire.

The group’s chair Dr Heini Gruffudd said: “We were told by the Government
that they could consider the effect of a development on forestry, the
countryside, water resources and the environment, but not its effect on the
Welsh language.

“The Government has consulted with bodies representing those interests, but
not with the Commissioner for the Welsh language who has expressed her
concern regarding the development. It’s apparent that the Government has no
regulations that would allow it to consider any impact on our language.”

In view of the delay in issuing a redrafted TAN20 – the Government’s
Technical Advice Note on planning and language – Dyfodol i’r Iaith has
called for its immediate publication.

Dr Gruffudd added: “In the meantime the Government should call in every
plan involving more than 50 houses until the new TAN20 is operational.
Without planning guidance on the language, and without the language being a
factor in calling in planning proposals, the Welsh language is totally

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) also expressed
grave concern.

The group’s sustainable communities spokesman Toni Schiavone said: “Cases
like this highlight the major weaknesses in the housing system, weaknesses
which undermine the community and the Welsh language.

“People want to live in Welsh, and that means living in a Welsh- speaking
community. But because of developments like this, that will be increasingly

In response to criticism that it was not doing enough to protect the Welsh
language in the context of planning issues, a Welsh Government spokesman
said: “It is not possible to comment on the issues arising from an
individual case. All requests for the Welsh Ministers to call in an
application will be considered individually against the criteria published
in Planning Policy Wales.”

“The Welsh Government has no plans at present to introduce a blanket
call-in policy for certain types of application.” Iaith Byw [a language
policy document issued by the Welsh Government] makes a commitment to
‘finalise the review of planning policy and associated technical advice on
the Welsh language’, and this is reflected in the Welsh Language Strategy
Action Plan for 2013-14.”

“Welsh Government policy on this issue is reflected in TAN 20 and Planning
Policy Wales. TAN 20 is currently being refreshed and a revised version is
due to be published later this year.”

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