Language campaigners fear slate landscape UNESCO status could attract too many tourists
Language campaigners have expressed fears that Wales’ newest UNESCO site will attract too many tourists.
Howard Huws, a spokesperson for the Cylch Yr Iaith campaign group, has warned that Welsh-speaking communities could be turned into “ghost towns” after the historic quarrying areas of Gwynedd were accredited world heritage status.
He says it could lead to an increase in second homes and turn the area into a “playground” for holidaymakers at the expense of residents.
Howard Huws told The Telegraph: “We’re facing the perfect storm. We’ve got rocketing house prices that are turning Welsh-speaking communities into ghost towns because of people being priced out.
“Now we have this additional effect of a world heritage site, which is going to bring people, buying holiday homes and second homes.
“Some people might be rejoicing, but I’m afraid all that is a house built on sand. The cultural and community basis of our culture is being eroded away further and further.
“It may be a great boost to the heritage industry, as they call it, but it has a dire effect. We can’t survive as a playground or a holiday park. We need what tourism can’t give us.”
The area famed for its slate industry has joined Egypt’s pyramids, India’s Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon in being awarded UNESCO status.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee said it was looking for a site of “outstanding universal value” which should be a “unique landmark” and has a “cultural, historical or physical significance”.
The origins of the slate industry Wales date back to the Roman period. It expanded rapidly in the 19th century with Penrhyn and Dinorwig becoming the two largest slate quarries in the world. The Oakeley mine at Blaenau Ffestiniog was the largest slate mine on the planet.
The successful bid, which was led by Gwynedd Council, was a partnership between a number of organisations. These included Snowdonia National Park, the National Trust, Bangor University, the Welsh Government, Cadw, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and the National Museum.
The area includes the communities of Dyffryn Ogwen, Dinorwig, Dyffryn Nantlle, Cwmystradllyn and Cwm Pennant, Ffestiniog and Porthmadog, Abergynolwyn and Tywyn.