The Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw) the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, has warmly welcomed the decision announced by Mark Drakeford today not to proceed with the M4 Relief Road ‘Black Route’ across the Gwent Levels, which would have threatened no less than four ancient woods, as well as devastating wildlife areas of national importance.
The Woodland Trust has campaigned actively against the proposed new road since latest proposals surfaced six years ago. Many hundreds of its supporters formally objected to the plans at various stages and the charity also gave evidence at the Public Inquiry in 2017.
Welcoming the news, Natalie Buttriss, the Woodland Trust’s director of Wales said: “One of our priorities is protecting ancient woodlands under threat and the irreplaceable biodiversity that they support. We currently have around 70 cases of ancient woods under threat in Wales. I sincerely hope therefore that now, with the rejection of the proposed ‘black route’ for an M4 relief road, a change of direction has been initiated which rejects all unsustainable road development and reduces the over-riding threat to our precious woodland habitats.”
Nigel Pugh, the Trust’s campaigns officer for Wales says: “We’re proud of the role we have played in opposing these plans, which would have been so damaging to irreplaceable ancient woods and other wildlife sites. We would also like to praise the solid campaigning and activism of the ‘Calm Campaign’ coalition, the volunteer-run social media behind it, the professionalism, and the positive engagement and mass support it has gained over several years. We have worked closely with a number of other conservation charities in fighting the proposals and standing up for the natural environment, particularly Wildlife Trust Wales and RSPB Cymru. The decision today demonstrates that cooperation was worthwhile.”
This controversial road proposal had been seen as the first big test of the globally acclaimed and progressive ‘Well-being of Future Generations Act’. The Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe had openly challenged the proposal.
“If the proposal had gone ahead”, says Nigel, “many may have lost faith in the Act’s ability to protect future generations from short term political decisions. The decision also gives us faith in the Welsh Government’s ‘Environment (Wales) Act 2016. The welcome recent declaration by the Welsh Government of a climate emergency acknowledges the public groundswell that has raised the profile of climate change and the urgency now needed to act on it.”
On the basis of the decision today, the Woodland Trust is calling for a review of other road schemes that are threatening irreplaceable ancient woods and our much valued wildlife, namely the A55 ‘Red Route’ proposal in North Wales and the M4 – J34, to the A48 proposed ‘surface link’ improvement to Cardiff Airport, which alone cuts through seven ancient woods.
Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw) is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife. The Trust has three key aims: i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.
Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. These include over 100 sites in Wales, with a total area of 2,897 hectares (7,155 acres). It offers free public access to nearly all of its sites. The Trust’s Welsh language name, “Coed Cadw”, is an old Welsh term, used in medieval laws to describe protected or preserved woodland.