Divide over Welsh sustainability body widens

A majority of organisations agree that a new Welsh independent body should be set up to carry out the Government's Sustainable Development Bill, according to the results of a 10-week consultation published yesterday.

However, out of the 200 organisations who responded, a number questioned this necessity, arguing that it would cause additional bureaucracy and waste money.

Some even suggested the creation of such a body went against the very principles of sustainable development that it was trying to achieve.

The most contentious issue was whether the Welsh government or the new sustainable development body should issue sustainability guidance. There was a clear split of opinion with many arguing that having the new body issue such guidance would give it a clear message of independence and authority.

At the same time, an equal number opted for the Welsh Assembly, claiming that government-issued guidelines would carry more weight and credibility.

Discussing the proposals, many groups believed that the greatest barriers they faced to making long term, joined-up decisions on sustainable development were budgetary requirements. Respondents found that the lack of long term financial resource security was to blame and that this had been worsened by the current economic climate.

It was argued that short term political cycles prevented the implementation of genuine long term policies.

Respondents called for more education about the actual definition of sustainable development, claiming that most people did not understand it properly and were often under the impression that it was solely an environmental issue.

In terms of time scale, many thought it would be unrealistic to expect organisations to meet requirements in less than a year, indicating that an optimum time-frame would be around 2-3 years.

Conor McGlone

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