M4 relief road plans dropped

04/06/2019
Dominic Browne

First Minister Mark Drakeford has abandoned plans for an M4 relief road on cost and environmental grounds, stating there is 'no prospect of the project being implemented in the foreseeable future'.

In a decision letter he wrote:'[The] Cabinet concluded that, in light of the cost of the Project, other demands and potential demands on the Welsh Government’s capital budget, and uncertainty as to the financial position of the Welsh Government, the cost of the Project, and its consequential impact on other capital investment priorities, was not acceptable.

'Accordingly, the Welsh Government’s position is that it will not provide funding for the Project. For the avoidance of doubt, the position adopted by the Cabinet does not call into question the Inspector’s conclusion that the Project would constitute at least sound value for money, and in all probability good value for money, as this was not an issue considered by the Cabinet.

He added: 'I recognise the Inspector’s conclusions as to the advantages and disadvantages of the Project. However, I attach greater weight than the Inspector did to the adverse impacts that the Project would have on the environment.'

'In particular, I attach very significant weight to the fact that the Project would have a substantial adverse impact on the Gwent Levels SSSIs and their reen network and wildlife, and on other species, and a permanent adverse impact on the historic landscape of the Gwent Levels.'

The Government's preferred Black route for the scheme would have taken the road through these sensitive wetlands.

The first minister concluded: 'In my judgement the Project’s adverse impacts on the environment (taken together with its other disadvantages) outweigh its advantages.'

The project has already been subject to a two-year delay and a cost rise of £136m to mitigate the road’s impact on nearby port operations (pictured).

After the Welsh Government declared a climate emergency recently it seemed the political tide was turning against the controversial scheme.

The proposed relief road was opposed by environmentalists; however it was supported from the CBI and the UK Government.

In 2017, Welsh Government economist Stephen Bussell, who carried out economic appraisals of the project, stated that when wider impacts are included, the Net Present Value of the scheme was £1.17bn with a Benefit Cost Ratio of 2.22.

This was based on economic benefits of £2.12bn against a cost of £952m.

However, Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘The M4 Black Route would be a disaster for nature, climate and public health. This road was first conceived of 25 years ago and we now know that building more roads does not address the problem of congestion, it only make it worse.'

She said the inquiry ‘needs to look at genuine alternatives including rail freight and public transport options to get unnecessary journeys off the roads and reduce congestion’.

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