Drakeford: UK Government need to ‘think very carefully’ about whether giant UK flag boosts YesCymru
The UK Government need to think very carefully about whether a 100 foot union jack they are proposing to place on their tax office in Cardiff will simply boost YesCymru.
Speaking in the Senedd, Mark Drakeford said that he couldn’t speak freely =about the development as the decision by Cardiff Councils planning officers was currently open to judicial review.
However, he expressed concern that the giant flag would only push more people towards signing YesCymru’s petition to revoke planning permission, which had already garnered over 19,000 signatures.
Mark Drakeford said that his objection “is not to a union flag per se; it is whether a 32 m tall, 8 m wide union flag is a proportionate way of proceeding”.
“It’s important, maybe, just to put on the record that this was not a decision taken by elected members of the council,” he added. “Within the standing orders of the council, this fell to officers to determine, and, as I understand it, the planning rules are such that the presumption is that planning permission is granted and the officers have to be persuaded to go against that presumption.
“They decided that, neither on amenity or on safety grounds, should the application be turned down. But this is the letter that the leader of the council wrote to the Secretary of State for Wales, and he said that ‘a misconceived exercise in image projection now would serve little purpose other than to generate disagreement’.
“And I think that is a point that the UK Government ought to think very carefully about. If the purpose of their actions is to strengthen the union, then they need to ask themselves whether or not a union jack on the scale and size that they are proposing is likely to achieve that ambition.
“Or whether it will simply drive more signatories to the Yes Wales petition asking for it to be reconsidered.”
His answer came after Plaid Cymru Senedd Member for South Wales Central, Rhys ab Owen, said that allowing the flag could set a precedent for other large advertisements or logos.
“I’m not going to rehearse the argument about the union flag. What the UK Government is doing is blatant, it’s obvious, and, I think, as you’ve said previously, First Minister, it’s not going to work,” he said.
“It’s more the technical point I wanted to make. As you’ve mentioned, the flag is classified as an advertisement, and the planning officer, whilst granting it, used, as an example, an LED screen in the city centre, which is 44% smaller than the union flag.
“The flag isn’t up yet, but still we haven’t got the recourse to call it back in and we can’t appeal it. The only people who can appeal it are the applicants themselves, and, of course, the UK Government won’t appeal.
“I’m glad to hear you are looking at other options, because my concern is the precedent this sets, First Minister. Who knows, we could have more union flags popping up; we could have advertisements for fast food outlets; we could have advertisements for betting firms coming on our skyscrapers in the city centre.
“So, the concern I have, First Minister, is the precedent this sets. Diolch yn fawr.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “Ty William Morgan is a significant UK Government building and is the first of its kind in Wales.
“As is practice with similar UK Government sites across the United Kingdom and around the world, it will feature the Union flag as part of its visual branding.
“The flag of Wales is flown at Ty William Morgan which also contains other specifically Welsh branding, while the name of the new building was chosen to reflect the UK Government’s investment in Wales and Welsh culture.”