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Concern that making slate quarries UNESCO site will worsen over-tourism in Welsh language communities

04 Mar 2021 2 minutes Read
Dinorwig pumped hydro Power Station at Slate Quarry near Llanberis. Picture by Takver (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Language campaigners have expressed concern that making slate quarries in the north-west of Wales UNESCO heritage sites will worsen over-tourism in those communities.

The slate mining landscape near Llanberis and Bethesda is bidding to become the 33rd UNECSO world heritage site in the world.

It would also be the 4th in Wales after the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Blaenavon industrial landscape and King Edward I’s castles.

But Howard Huws from Cylch yr Iaith said that tourism in those areas was already leading to a decline in the number of Welsh speakers.

He said that there is “clear, academic, objective evidence” that tourism was overdeveloped in Wales and that there was a correlation between over-tourism and the decline of the language.

“The presence of UNESCO World Heritage Sites exacerbates over-tourism,” he said. However he said that the Welsh Government had never acknowledged the link between them.

“Without acknowledging that, and taking action to prevent and repair the damage caused by over-tourism, all the talk of ‘emphasizing the importance of the Welsh language’, ‘celebrating heritage’, ‘reinforcing cultural distinctiveness’ […] is just empty noise.”

‘Unique’

Howard Huws was responding to a message by Dr Kathryn Roberts, Head of Historic Environment at CADW, which said that Welsh language groups were playing a key role in the bid.

“The nomination is managed by a Partnership led by Gwynedd Council with the support of a wide range of stakeholders including landowners and communities across the region,” she said.

“Many members of the community have played a key role in work associated with the nomination, and especially the young people involved in the LleChi project, who have contributed their time and creativity.

“In accordance with the policies of Gwynedd Council and Snowdonia National Park, any engagement work emphasizes the importance of the Welsh language.

“As you say in your email, the unique feature of the slate industry is that it is an integral part of the fabric of Welsh-speaking communities and this is an important part of the nomination.

“Part of the Partnership’s vision for the North West Wales Slate Landscapes is to reinforce cultural distinctiveness and strengthen the Welsh language in the region.”

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