Plans to build M4 relief road axed says Welsh government
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has scrapped plans to build a £1.4 billion relief road for the M4 amid concerns over its high costs and environmental impact.
The proposed six-lane motorway was intended to relieve congestion at the Brynglas Tunnels in the Newport area of South Wales and would span roughly 14 miles.
It is the third time that plans to build the M4 relief road have been rebuffed by ministers.
The latest rejection of the proposals contravenes a Welsh Labour manifesto pledge from three years ago.
Drakeford’s decision to shelve the project has come under fire from Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, after a public inquiry led by planning inspector Bill Wadrup made a “compelling case” for the road to be built.
Cairns said: “It appears that the first minister thinks he knows better than the independent inquiry.”
Around £44 million has already been spent on the public inquiry among other development costs.
However, Drakeford declared that how Welsh Government money was allocated was “beyond the scope” of the inquiry and cited the “adverse impact” that the relief road would have on the environment.
Drakeford said: “In my judgement the project’s adverse impacts on the environment outweigh its advantages.”
The Welsh government had already declared a climate emergency in April 2019.
Haf Elgar, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, praised Drakeford’s decision.
Elgar said: “This is great news for Wales and the planet. As well as costing Welsh taxpayers over £2 billion, this devastating road would have ploughed through the unique, wild-life rich Gwent Levels, pumped more emissions into our atmosphere and ultimately caused even more congestion and air pollution.”
Meanwhile, Ian Price, director of lobby group CBI Wales, was less optimistic.
Price said: “After decades of deliberation and over £40 million spent, no problem has been solved.
"Congestion and road pollution around Newport can only increase. Economic growth will be stifled, confidence in the region will weaken and the cost of an eventual relief road will rise.”
Welsh Conservative AM Russell George also expressed his dismay, labelling the decision a kick in the teeth for local commuters.
Small business group FSB Wales implored the Welsh government in the wake of the decision to “move immediately to engage with business and give an assurance that it has some sort of Plan B".