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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 January 2008, 06:47 GMT
Planning row over language favour
Ceredigion Council sign
Ceredigion has a large population of Welsh speakers
Officials in a Welsh language heartland have been criticised for granting planning applications from Welsh speakers despite advice to reject them.

It came after Ceredigion councillors approved three applications against the advice of planners which were later rejected by the assembly government.

The assembly government's planning inspector said it was "discriminatory" to grant plans on a language basis.

But one planning committee member said it was trying to protect communities.

The incident came to light when one of the three approved applications was called in by the assembly government.

In a subsequent report, planning inspector Ian Osborne said it would be "discriminatory" to grant permission solely on the grounds the applicant was a Welsh speaker.

It would be discriminatory to grant permission solely or largely on the grounds that the applicant is Welsh-speaking
Ian Osborne

"Whilst the planning system should take account of the needs and interest of the Welsh language, the fact that the applicant is a local, Welsh-speaking person active in the community does not outweigh the environmental harm," said Mr Osborne.

"Moreover it would be discriminatory to grant permission solely or largely on the grounds that the applicant is Welsh-speaking."

Ceredigion Council's senior planning officer Aled Richards has warned the council's planning committee that it could lose its planning powers if it continued to take decisions that breached regulations.

"We have to take this very seriously," he added.

"What's happening is that time and time again we refer to the fact that the applicant is a local Welsh speaker. We have to look at the application, not the applicant."

All we're trying to do is stand up for our young people and our communities
Cllr Lyndon Lloyd

But Cllr Lyndon Lloyd who sits on the planning committee said he disagreed with Mr Osborne's comments.

"We have assembly government ministers saying there should be policies in rural areas that rely on positive discretion, and then we have comments from Mr Osborne that seem so rigid," he explained.

"All we're trying to do is stand up for our young people and our communities. There seems to be a lack of awareness of that in Cardiff from the assembly's officials."

He was supported by the Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg).

Angharad Clwyd, chair of the group in Ceredigion, said it supported planners' decision to support local people.

She added: "We support Ceredigion County Council's decision to look at the needs of local people and the Welsh language when it comes to planning.

"Cymdeithas believe that preference should be given to local people and are calling for a property act that would secure this amongst other planning issues that would safeguard our communities."

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said Jane Davidson, the minister responsible for planning issues, could not comment on individual applications.

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