On 16th July 2014, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart, announced that the Welsh Government has adopted a plan for a new three lane motorway between Magor and Castleton. The route will broadly follow the ‘black route’ proposed in the November 2013 consultation, passing through the Gwent Levels Living Landscape.
This commits the Welsh Government to planning and building the new road, and also to spending over a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money. This is likely to come from a combination of the Welsh budget and money borrowed from the UK government.
The announcement came immediately prior to publication of a report produced by the Environment and Sustainability Committee, which states that there are ‘serious unanswered questions’ regarding the M4 consultation process to date. The report raises concerns over:
- The selection of options considered
- The consideration of alternatives
- The fact that serious issues put forward by Natural Resources Wales were not taken into account
- The validity of the traffic forecasting
- The total cost, and where the funding would come from
The Wildlife Trusts believe that the minister has also inadequately considered the alternative ‘Blue Route’ put forward by Transport Professor Stuart Cole, which upgrades existing infrastructure. The blue route would be less environmentally damaging, nearly a quarter of the cost, cause less disruption during construction and could be operational within a few years. The new motorway would not be completed until 2021 at the earliest.
Why do the Wildlife Trusts object to the proposed ‘black route’?
1. The Gwent Levels is a network of drainage ditches, meadows and marshes that supports species such as water vole, otter and lapwing
2. The 15 mile motorway would pass through 5 miles of SSSI, and close to two Gwent Wildlife Trust nature reserves, destroying irreplaceable habitats
3. Pollution from the road could enter the drainage ditches, which support over 100 rare invertebrates.
4. The motorway will restrict species moving from place to place, hampering their ability to find food, breed, and respond to climate change
For more information
Environment and Sustainability Committee Inquiry into Welsh Government Proposals for the M4 around Newport
What can you do?
1. Join CALM. Wildlife Trusts Wales and Gwent Wildlife Trust are members of a group of NGOs, Community Councils and individuals called Campaign Against the Levels Motorway (CALM). This group is opposed to road building on the Gwent Levels and will continue to campaign in various ways against the motorway. The Wildlife Trusts members can join CALM to receive newsletters on the latest developments. CALM newsletters also provide information and advice on responding to consultations and writing to Assembly members. Join CALM via firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
2. Write to your local Assembly Member (AM)– but remember that your message will depend upon their stance to the proposals. You can find contact details for your local AM here, or you can write directly to Edwina Hart AM, the minister responsible for the decision. Here is a guide to the AMs’ stance on the issue that will help you to frame your correspondence:
|Labour – selected AMs||Backbenchers Mick Antoniw (Pontypridd), Julie Morgan (Cardiff north), Jenny Rathbone (Cardiff Central) and Julie James(Swansea West) all spoke out against the proposals and should be encouraged in this stance.|
|Labour – all other AMs||All other AMs we believe at present to be in favour, so write to explain your objections.|
|Plaid Cymru AMs||Have withdrawn from discussions about the road and have publically stated their opposition, so should be encouraged in this stance.|
|Conservative AMs||No clear position: write to your AM to encourage them to read the Environment and Sustainability Committee report on the proposals, promote the blue route, reject the black route.|
|Liberal Democrat AMs||No clear position: write to your AM to encourage them to read the Environment and Sustainability Committee report on the proposals, promote the blue route, reject the black route.|