What’s our beef?
By autumn 2022 people living in South Wales will be £1 billion poorer, but will have fifteen extra miles of glistening new tarmac around Newport for their troubles. While the economics of the M4 Relief Road have been widely debated – Professor Cole’s £380 million blue route anyone? – there are some very immediate factors in play for the area’s ancient woodland.
The Trust’s recent analysis of the black route, the Welsh government’s chosen option, reveals that five areas of ancient woodland are set to be damaged or destroyed. Furthermore much of the woodland planted in the wake of the M4’s original construction is set to be devastated alongside it.
Like many infrastructure proposals, the advocates of the scheme are at pains to point out how it takes in to account the natural environment as well as compensates for the damage it will cause. While this may be true, the facts are stark, five ancient woods and significant parts of the Gwent Levels (including four nationally important Sites of Special Scientific Interest and two Special Areas of Conservation) will be significantly worse off. This is not low impact road building.
What should happen?
While not opposed to all new road building – we use and need them – what has been put forward by the Welsh Government is simply not acceptable on environmental grounds.
Thousands of the Trust’s supporters in Wales have taken the time to respond to consultations and lobby politicians to come up with a better solution. The CALM (Campaign Against the Levels Motorway) alliance has also done a sterling job of raising the wider conservation concerns. At the Trust we have three key asks of those behind the M4 proposals:
- If you believe congestion relief is needed, come up with a scheme that doesn’t destroy irreplaceable habitats. £1 billion of taxpayers’ money should not result in a scheme with devastating environmental outcomes
- If you are building near an ancient wood, buffer it properly. This means sizable, bespoke planting or open spaces that keep the noise, air and light pollution far away
- If your proposal goes near woodland planted to compensate for previous road building, do not destroy it. Find a way to protect and even enhance what will be an important green linear corridor
The latest consultation has now closed and we’ll keep everyone updated as and when we receive any response from the Welsh Government. We plan to ask for a meeting with those leading on this scheme to discuss our concerns and request solutions. We know there are a lot of people out there who are concerned about this scheme, we just need to ensure we make this count.