Wales politics

Sustainable development law aims to protect communities

Wrexham street scene
Image caption The white paper outlines a new independent body to promote sustainable development

The Welsh government wants to introduce a new law to protect the "well-being" of community life.

The sustainable development white paper was launched at a school in Blaenavon, Torfaen, dubbed a good example for helping the wider community.

However, the Conservatives said urgent action was needed amid growing environmental concerns.

And Welsh language campaigners feared their cause could fall lower down the priorities of public bodies.


Delegates from organisations including local councils were told that Blaenavon Heritage Primary School was chosen as the location for the launch as it provided a wide range of courses and services across the area for residents with a number of public bodies working together.

"Our approach is very much rooted in Welsh values, with a focus on fairness, pride in our communities and our heritage," said John Griffiths, environment and sustainable development minister.

"The proposals set out in this White Paper are about focusing on the social, economic and environmental well being for Welsh people and Welsh communities over the long term."

The Sustainable Development Bill includes:

  • A duty to make sustainable development the central organising principle of public service organisations in Wales
  • A new independent body for sustainable development to support this change
  • Transitional arrangements to ensure organisations are ready for the new duty
  • Improvements to the accountability arrangements for sustainable development in Wales

For the Conservatives, shadow environment minister Russell George said: "While this consultation and its influence on future policy is extremely important, we have long called for Labour ministers to get a grip on sustainable development.

"With greenhouse gases on the rise, mobility policy failing, health inequalities getting wider and wildlife habitats in decline, it's more important than ever that we see urgent improvements."

Meanwhile, the Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg) has concerns.

Sustainable communities spokesperson Toni Schiavone said: "The government's language strategy is completely clear that Welsh needs to be mainstreamed in all its departments, especially where the work affects the future of Welsh speaking communities.

"However, under this Bill, there is a risk that public bodies will downgrade the Welsh language as a policy consideration.

"The government intends to make sustainable development public bodies' central organising principle.

"In that context, it's essential that the welfare of the Welsh language is part of the definition of sustainable development."

The consultation runs until March with a number of public events from January.

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