Business leaders consider legal challenge to Bannau Brycheiniog rebrand
Members of the mid Wales business community are taking legal advice on the feasibility of a High Court challenge to the recent decision to rebrand Brecon Beacons National Park with the Welsh language-only name Bannau Brycheiniog.
Ironically the piece of legislation that could provide the basis of a challenge is the Welsh Language Act 1993, which was introduced partly to give Welsh equal status with English.
One of the Act’s three aims was to oblige “all organisations in the public sector providing services to the public in Wales to treat Welsh and English on an equal basis”.
A source in the business community within the area of the national park told us: “By deleting the English name for the park authority, it seems that the equality previously provided by having names in both languages has been lost.
“Legal advice is being sought on the likelihood of winning a court challenge on that basis.”
News of the possible legal challenge comes as the Conservative councillor who resigned from the park authority because of the name change called for all documents relating to the rebranding process to be published.
The decision to use only the Welsh name in the future has attracted UK-wide and international publicity, some of it positive but much of it negative.
The Daily Mail carried an article that was unashamedly hostile towards the Welsh language, framing the decision to rebrand the park as Bannau Brycheiniog as a “woke” contribution to culture wars.
An anonymous source who contacted Nation.Cymru by encrypted email suggested that Cllr Iain McIntosh, the Conservative member of Powys County Council whose resignation from the park authority prompted the Daily Mail’s interest in the matter, may himself have voted for the name change.
The source also pointed out that the only reference to the name change in published minutes of the park authority related to a meeting held last November where it was stated that the discussion had taken place in private after members of the public were excluded because it involved “information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)”.
The source went on to state: “The Daily Mail article … contains a quote from Cllr McIntosh where, while he notes that ‘the board voted to approve the name change’, he doesn’t specifically state whether he himself voted to approve it. He says he thought there would be more consultation but doesn’t say if he asked any specific questions about the consultation to provide some scrutiny of the plans. I have had confirmation from another member of the board that they personally had ‘voted for the change’ so it seems the proposal was put to a vote as you would expect.”
The source suggested a number of questions that could be put to the park authority, including:
* Why was the rebranding of the national park discussed behind closed doors under the seemingly not relevant grounds of “relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person”? Can the minutes of this discussion be released?
* Was there any discussion around public consultation in the meeting about rebranding? For example, were any commitments about consultation made by officers of the national park to board members which were subsequently not fulfilled?
* Was there any discussion of the announcement of the changes and how this would be presented to the media? Was there any attempt to scrutinise how this internationally significant announcement would be handled?
* Was there a vote by the authority members on the rebranding and if so were the names of any votes for and against recorded? The Daily Mail article contains personal attacks on several members who may have voted against the change. If Cllr McIntosh voted for the change then he obviously holds some accountability for any implications for local businesses, about which he complains in the Daily Mail, in his resignation letter and on his Facebook page.
Responding, Cllr McIntosh insisted that he was surprised when the announcement was made last month that the national park’s name was to be rebranded as the Welsh-only Bannau Brycheiniog.
He released a comment he had made on the authority members’ WhatsApp group chat the morning after they had been told of the change: “I have to say I’m a little confused this morning. I wasn’t able to come last night, but I assumed it was announcing the name, and that a consultation exercise would be the next stage before final implementation.
There are stakeholders and other organisations, businesses, here who use the BBNPA name and branding. I’d assumed they would have been consulted next. If they have been consulted then I missed that, apologies.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Gareth Ratcliffe, deputy chair of the park authority, responded: “No problem Iain. There has been numerous consultations the name Brecon Beacons still exists we now have the Welsh name leading [sic].”
Cllr McIntosh, who runs a carpet shop in Brecon, told us: “I believe that the park authority should release all documentation relating to the name change. So far as I was concerned, a final decision would have been made after a proper consultation exercise. The authority claims consultation was undertaken – I believe they should release details of who was consulted. Many businesses have ‘Brecon Beacons’ in their title and, to my knowledge, are unhappy with the decision to ditch the English name.
“It’s been suggested that I’m against the Welsh language. That’s not the case at all and I fully support bilingualism. But I think it’s wrong to only use the Welsh name.”
Bannau Brycheiniog did not respond specifically to the questions drafted by the anonymous source, but a spokeswoman for the national park said: ‘We engaged with many people during the process of developing our new brand and management plan to help shape our direction; this included working throughout with a stakeholder reference panel and with a citizens assembly to test our thinking and to reflect on other inputs coming through the consultation.
“The agency we worked with on our new brand conducted in-depth sessions with a selection of staff, volunteers, members and ambassadors. The results of these sessions guided the decision-making process for the new brand.
“In line with our commitment to the Welsh language, and in line with feedback from our consultation process, we have chosen to prioritise Bannau Brycheiniog, the Welsh name for the park. The decision was taken by the national park authority and communicated to the Welsh Government ahead of the launch on April 17.”
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