Brif Weinidog, Llywydd, Aelodau’r Cynulliad, Foneddigion a Boneddigesau, mae fy ngwraig a minnau wrth ein bodd yn eich croesawi yma heno i ddathlu agoriad y Trydydd Cynulliad Cenedlaethol, ac rwy’n arbennig o falch ein bod yma o fewn muriau hanesyddol ysblennydd Castell Caerdydd.
This is an important occasion for Wales and so I particularly wanted to do something to mark it. Some of you may remember that at a similar dinner in 2000, I announced that I was reinstating the tradition of appointing a Harpist to The Prince of Wales. That night, Catrin Finch gave her debut performance – an event that I, for one, will never forget. Many of you, I suspect, will have heard Jemima Phillips, who followed in Catrin’s footsteps. This evening I want to announce the latest incumbent, who is Claire Jones – from Crymych – and we will hear from her after dinner. I need hardly say that I am very pleased that my long-cherished ambition to revive the tradition of appointing a harpist is now firmly re-established. Both Catrin and Jemima have told me that it has made a huge difference to their careers and I know that both have been wonderful ambassadors for Wales, as well as giving enormous pleasure to my guests who have been lucky enough to hear them – from Cornwall to Caithness!
No-one here needs me to tell them of the rich musical vein that runs through this country – it is one of Wales’s most special and endearing characteristics. So it is to encourage Welsh talent to flourish that I have joined forces with the Arts Council of Wales to establish The Prince of Wales Awards for Advanced Study in Music. By endowing scholarships for outstanding young Welsh musicians, I hope we can allow them to continue their training at the highest level so they can go on to make an essential contribution to the cultural life of Wales. We will hear from the inaugural Award winners later. As it happens, Claire is one of those recipients, as well as being my new Harpist, which is why you will see that she has been asked to perform twice!
Ladies and Gentlemen, while you are all here this evening – a captive audience in Cardiff Castle! – I wonder if I may just take advantage of this opportunity to pay tribute to the manner in which Wales has led the way in placing sustainability at the heart of the public agenda? As you will know, this is a subject which has been close to my heart for quite some time, but it is enormously encouraging to see that Wales has been playing such an important role on the international stage in this regard.
I am in no doubt that climate change is the greatest threat facing mankind. I need hardly lecture those of you in this room about that: Wales played a prominent part in the first industrial revolution and I am so pleased, not to say proud as well, that this is now one of the very few Governments in the world to adopt a formal commitment to sustainable development. It has been most interesting to read about the targets you have set yourselves – for example, ensuring that all new buildings are zero carbon rated by 2011, not to mention the way education about sustainable development has been integrated into the national curriculum in schools. But can we do enough in this whole area to ensure our grandchildren don’t bear the brunt of all the problems?
There are a number of representatives from my charitable organizations here this evening and I am pleased to say that they are also making an increasing contribution in this area. For example, I recently hosted a “May Day Business Summit” on Climate Change, organized by Business in the Community. The aim was to persuade companies to make real commitments to change. Through the wonders of video-conferencing, over one thousand business leaders came together in nine different English regions, linked to a hub event at St James’s Palace, to hear facts and find solutions. Unfortunately, the timing was such that the Elections prevented us from including participants in Scotland and Wales but, together with Northern Ireland, I am pleased to say that we are working towards a very similar event in the not-too-distant future…
I can only hope it will be as successful as the England Summit at which companies made 5,500 pledges to take some kind of action and 600 companies agreed to become May Day companies – which means they have committed to reporting back in a year’s time on what they have achieved.
As we all know, when you can gather people together and focus on some of these issues in a structured way, inspiration and commitment to action can often be found. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is not fanciful to suggest that we may be the last generation which can help to protect vitally important parts of the planet before it is too late and they are lost forever. The ability of this Earth to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted and that means, if I may say so, taking a much longer term view of our actions.
Just take the subject of building design and community planning, for example. The fate of our cities and towns is increasingly understood to affect not only their economies, but people’s day-to-day health, physical and mental, and the global environment as well. The link between sprawling car-dependent developments and various health problems is now better established and, on the other end of the scale, the alienation and social dysfunction caused by high-rise blocks of social housing in peripheral housing estates is, I think, evident to most. All this must be seen against the background of projections from the United Nations Environment Programme indicating that by 2030, sixty per cent of the world’s people will live in cities, fuelled by migration from rural areas and the transformation of towns into what is likely to be increasingly unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional cities – particularly in the developing world.
But there are answers to be found and the solution to these problems in large part lies in new urbanism; in other words, walkable mixed communities – in other words the end of ghettoization which has so afflicted the 20th Century – an approach to urban planning that reflects traditional building types and materials and embodying local identity and culture, while at the same time, incorporating the necessary eco-efficiency.
Such dense yet human-scaled neighbourhoods embody something called location efficiency – the mix of walkable streets, density, public transport access and access to amenity – and this location efficiency reduces the need for car travel, and hence reduces carbon emissions. So cities at historic scale are part of the answer to our global environment crisis.
Incidentally, I am very pleased that my Foundation for the Built Environment is working with the Welsh Assembly Government, BP and Neath Port Talbot Council to build an exemplar of these principles at Coed Darcy, on the site of the old Llandarcy refinery. The development there covers 1,300 acres and will eventually provide some 4,000 homes, embodying the latest thinking about environmentally-friendly design. I am delighted that a number of Assembly officials recently visited the more mature project the Duchy of Cornwall has been developing at Poundbury – the same underlying principles will apply at Coed Darcy, but naturally the emphasis will be on distinctive Welsh vernacular traditions with the aim of creating a real sense of place. My Foundation’s master plan has already created sufficient commercial value to persuade a developer, St Modwen’s, to clean up the site and transform it, without the need for substantial public subsidy, into an urban village. I hope that the development will eventually become an example to others of how to convert redundant former industrial sites into thriving residential and business communities.
After spending most of my life going round and round the U.K. meeting countless people from all walks of life, seeing the challenges, problems and opportunities facing different communities, it would be a dereliction of duty if I did not try to make a difference where I could or to try and make an investment in the future by helping to train people with the necessary, appropriate skills. All my organizations have been established in order to fill what I believe are gaps and neglected areas – the bits where the baby was thrown out with the bathwater in the 1960s and which have suffered ever since from fragmentation, whether of communities or individuals.
That is why I have taken such an interest in the fields of the built and natural environments, agriculture, medicine and education – only because I believe more and more that we are what we’re surrounded by, as we are what we eat; that we are dangerously divorced from Nature and have lost the essential integration of mind, body and spirit in healthcare and have abandoned too many of those timeless elements in the way we educate people, whether in the lack of whole text teaching in English or in a chronological appreciation of our history.
This time next year the intention is that my wife and I will be able to base ourselves at our new Welsh home, at Llwynywermwd in Carmarthenshire, where I hope I can contribute to the restoration of the historic landscape – as I am also trying to do through my current Farmers’ Marketing Initiatives in different parts of the uplands in order to help the survival of family farms – such as the Cambrian Mountains Initiative which I am visiting on Friday - as well as to breed a few very important Welsh Black Cattle! Meanwhile, may I wish you every success with your deliberations as you embark on this Third Assembly…
Noswaith dda i chi gyd a phob hwyl ar eich Trydydd Cynulliad.
[I wish you a pleasant evening and every success during the Third Assembly.]