Welsh-language movement Dyfodol I’r Iaith has backed a call by economist Gerald Holtham for policies aimed at encouragining young people to remain and work in Wales.
Dyfodol states, “The constant haemorrhage of young people from wales, especially from western areas, saps the energy of Welsh-speaking communities and undermines hopes for the revitalisation of the language.”
In article in Welsh language monthly Barn, Professor Holtham draws attention to the fact that Wales suffered a net loss of people aged 15-29 years between 2001 abd 2019. The total population increased by 107,000 over the same period through inward migration mainly of older people.
Says Dyfodol, “This imbalance is certain to be greater in the Western regions. We need robust, immediate action to stem the loss. That is why we support Professor Holtham’s call for implementing a package of measures to make Wales an attractive country for young people to live and create a livelihood, including:
- Further and higher education to be free for students who remain and work in Wales for five years after graduating
- Write off current debts for students who start a business in Wales, along with mentoring support”
Professor Holtham also calls for assistance for young people to obtain housing and to limit the growth of second homes to reduce the price of houses in districts like Gwynedd.
Concerning the Professor’s suggestion that young people from outside Wales should be attracted here to develop businesses Dyfodol recognises the economic case for this but insists support should be conditional on a commitment to learn Welsh, especially in the western regions.
Dyfodol also reaffirms its support for
- Establishing Arfor, a public Agency specifically for the West which would combine a sustainable development remit with language planning to grow the Welsh language
- Implementing the recommendation of the Seimon Brooks report on holiday homes
Dyfodol i’r Iaith is calling upon the local authorities of Gwynedd and Môn to review the target noted in their current Local Development Plan to build 7,184 new homes up to 2026.
The Development Plan was drawn up within the context of the future development of Wylfa atomic power station. Following the announcement that this plan will not be going ahead, Dyfodol believes that it is essential to review these building targets which are by now superfluous to local need.
Heini Gruffudd, Dyfodol i’r Iaith’r Chair said:
“From the start, we were convinced that the Local Development Plan included building targets that were totally unsuitable for the area, and by now, there can surely be no justification in following a framework that is not only unsustainable, but which also threatens the Welsh language as a social medium.
We therefore call for an urgent review of the Local Development Plan, with priority being given to local needs – both economically and linguistically. Emphasis should be placed upon sustainable energy and supporting local businesses.”
Dyfodol i’r Iaith is convinced that the proposed National Planning Framework can make a key contribution to the Welsh Government’s laudable aim of creating a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
We welcome specific aspects of the draft document, such as the emphasis on affordable housing, the cautious development of rural areas and the central importance of the Well-being of Future Generations Act. We are also satisfied to note that the responsibility for Welsh Language impact assessments now rests with the Local Authorities.
The Overview and point 4 within the Results section are promising in that they acknowledge the importance of the Welsh language to Planning process. However, the language receives no mention as part of the checklist of considerations for Strategic Planning Schemes.
Dyfodol i’r Iaith therefore calls upon the Welsh Government to ensure that the following considerations are included in the final version of the National Planning Framework, so that flourishing Welsh-language communities continue to survive in 2050: –
- The allocation of a western Region, which includes all counties containing communities where more than 25% of the population speak Welsh. A number pf County Councils have designated a baseline of 25% Welsh speakers as communities where the effects of house building needs to be assessed. Dyfodol i’r Iaith wants this principle in relation to such communities to be an integral part of the National Development Framework.
- Revise all levels of the Planning system, ensuring that the Welsh Government works in equal partnership with the Local Authorities. Each Local Authority with communities of 25% Welsh speakers or above should, in turn, work with Community Councils and local Mentrau Iaith in deciding what developments would be suitable for these areas.
- In each community with more that 25% of Welsh speakers, consideration should be given to the following:
[a] the number of empty houses
[b] birth and death rates over the previous decade
[c] the in and out migration patterns over the previous decade when allocating, within Local Development Plans, the number and location of homes to be built.
- We would also call for the Welsh Language Commissioner to be given the same Statutory Consultee status as other environmental and sustainability organisations to protect and promote the Welsh language. This extra responsibility would, of course, entail developing the expertise within the Commissioner’s office.
- Finally, we would wish to see The National Development Framework adopt the key principle of prioritising the effect of “land use “on local inhabitants and the Welsh language to support the aims of the Welsh Government.