M4 relief road plans axed

The Welsh government has scrapped plans for a £1.6bn M4 relief road.

First Minister Mark Drakeford cited both cost and environmental impact for the decision.

The work would have created a six-lane relief road, dropping through Magor and south of Newport before rejoining the M4 after it crossed the Gwent Levels.

Ministers also concluded that because of austerity and Brexit looming in the background, the plans were simply too expensive to put into practice.

A year-long inquiry into the positives and negatives of the project concluded there was a ‘compelling’ case for the road.

But speaking yesterday, Drakeford stated: “I recognise the inspector’s conclusions. 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 [sites of special scientific interest] and their reen [drainage ditch] network and wildlife, and on other species, and a permanent adverse impact on the historic landscape of the Gwent Levels.”

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He added: “This decision is being made at the point of maximum uncertainty about our financial future. Unprecedented austerity in the public finances is combined with a complete lack of clarity over our capital budgets for the coming years, and is exacerbated by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.”

Despite the plans being dropped, Drakeford said the Welsh government was “committed to taking an inclusive and collaborative approach to finding innovative, affordable and sustainable solutions in the shortest possible timescales, and we look forward to working with others to achieve that ambition.”