Friday, 10 February 2017

Save The Gwent Levels From The M4 Bypass

Contact your Assembly Member about this!
More information here, and on the Save The Levels site (they also have a Twitter account).

Recent news coverage:
The Guardian: Thought the Newbury bypass devastated wildlife? These M4 plans are far worse
BBC: M4 relief road - Common cranes nesting on proposed site 
Also, a damning report on road-building culture.

Help to save Magor Marsh Nature Reserve and the Gwent Levels from the proposed M4 bypass, for the sake of the environment and for the wildlife. The proposed 'black route' M4 relief road around Newport, Gwent in South Wales will damage 2 nature reserves, 5 of Wales’ most precious nature sites (SSSIs), the Wales Coastal Path and the Celtic Trail, part of National Cycle Route 4. Pollution from construction and traffic will enter the ancient reen (ditch) systems that are home to, among other wildlife, rare birds, water beetles, aquatic plants, otters and water vole. And it will cut a dangerous divide across the Gwent Levels, right through their habitats. The new elevated bridge over the River Usk will be noisy and disruptive for people in South and Central Newport and experts believe the new road will not solve any traffic problems. It will cost the public over £1 billion, probably more than £2bn. But with the support of AMs it can be stopped.

And none of that will do anything about the longer-term problem of unsustainable road-building and increasing car use. Until our society does something about over-dependence on cars, there will be no end to this problem.

125 hectares of SSSI habitats (nationally designated areas for their wildlife) including grazing marsh and reedbed will be lost or irreparably damaged if it went ahead. The Gwent Levels is one of the jewels of Wales, with immense cultural and historical significance. This rare wetland complex habitat is nationally important for its wildlife and is protected by national designations that encompass rare water beetles and other aquatic bugs and wetland plants that live in and around the area’s network of reens and ditches. The wildlife that the new motorway threatens includes:
Otters – the biggest threat to this wonderful mammal is from road kills.
Water voles – a recent and successful reintroduction project of this keystone species means they are thriving in the planned area.
Breeding waders – lapwing, redshank and curlew all breed locally across the Levels, with further species on the nearby Newport Wetlands reserve.
144 Nationally Notable or Red Data Book aquatic invertebrate species (water bugs!) including water beetles and dragonflies have been recorded from the Gwent Levels.
The Levels also supports the nationally scarce rootless duckweed (Wolffia arrhiza). This is considered to be the world’s smallest flowering plant and occurs nowhere else in Wales.

The Gwent Levels have suffered from severe development pressure over the years, which has continually eroded this amazingly rich habitat. If the proposals for road building go ahead, one of the UKs largest surviving areas of ancient grazing marshes and reen systems with its associated, unique wildlife will be irreparably damaged. There will be no getting it back. Damage would not be limited to direct loss of habitat where the road is built; the road would create a barrier preventing the movement of wildlife between the protected areas not under concrete. In addition, the road will impede water movement between these isolated pockets and this could have permanently destroyed the wetland habitat. The pollution that runs off the road into the reen system is likely to pollute the water that is so vital for the important inhabitants of the wetlands.

Ask your AM to help block and prevent this wildlife disaster. Protect the Gwent levels!

We've been in touch with them for Ceredigion (10th February 2017). Hopefully they will reply to say they oppose building a huge road over irreplaceable green wildlife areas. Either way, the results will be worth bearing in mind come voting time. We will update this if we hear anything further.
  • Simon Thomas (Plaid Cymru) = on Twitter he says he is opposed to the M4 expansion (which is great - 18th February 2017). But he never replied to our letter to clarify what actions he'll take - and has taken - to oppose it.

Eluned Morgan (Welsh Labour) = no reply to our first letter; asked again 12th March 2017. = replied on 13 March 2017. But she refused to take a stand against the horrible proposal detailed above. It's also clear from the letter that although she/Labour acknowledge a problem with over-use of road transport - "congestion only grows with each passing year" - they are clueless about fixing the underlying problem of too much traffic. Instead the proposal seems to be to build more roads, encourage traffic, and create even more problems for the future. Making road travel easier will make traffic problems worse in the long run - the only real solution is to discourage car use and encourage and fund alternatives that are cheaper and more efficient. (Oh, the letter and envelope weren't on recycled paper either.)

Joyce Watson (Welsh Labour) = replied, but didn't clearly answer the questions (the reply was just an old statement pasted into an email) - we asked for clarification on 16th February but didn't get a reply. Asked again 12th March 2017. Finally she replied on 20th March 2017. She supports the "Black Route, for reasons set out in my previous correspondence". So Labour want to build motorways over the Gwent Levels despite the massive harm to the environment and wildlife, and the fact that it will only make future traffic problems worse. So much for Labour caring about the environment.

Elin Jones (Plaid Cymru) = replied on 27 Feb 2017. It isn't clear from this if Plaid supports the principle of further roads/bypasses (e.g. the "blue" route) or not - presumably they do support the blue route, or the wording would have been that they don't support any M4 expansion.
"Thanks for this. Plaid Cymru does not support the Welsh Government’s preferred black route for the replacement M4. Diolch, Elin Jones AC/AM"

Neil Hamilton (UKIP) = his office replied 22nd Feb 2017. The text says they are against the worst "black" route, but still support a bypass via the "blue" route (or the "black" route if it goes ahead).

"Further to your  emails regarding the M4 relief road in Gwent.
Congestion on the M4 corridor is a tax on jobs and prosperity in South Wales and extremely fast action must be taken to resolve this problem.  Neil and UKIP stood on a manifesto supporting the 'Blue Route' rather than the 'Black Route' M4 relief road in South Wales.  The 'Blue Route' is promoted by Professor Stuart Cole and proposes to use Newport’s Steelworks Road and upgrading stretches of the existing A48 to a grade separated dual carriageway.  The 'Blue Route' is likely not to impact upon the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), wildlife and environmental features as much as the 'Black Route'.

Last October, Neil called upon the Welsh government to undertake a feasibility study of both routes and suggested that the studies made by Professor Cole needed to be broadened and accelerated.  Both UKIP Assembly Members for the South Wales East area have met Professor Cole, who has kept the UKIP group and Neil informed of his research.  Last December, Neil queried whether Welsh Government Ministers had met Professor Cole personally (or intended to do so).
Neil and UKIP's first and highest priority is to persuade the Welsh Government to support the 'Blue Route'.  However, we will be prepared to enter into discussions and negotiations with the government on the 'Black Route', if the Welsh Government put no other option on the table.  In those negotiations, Neil and UKIP, will try to preserve as many SSSIs, wildlife and environmental features that is possible.
Neil and UKIP once again reiterate that its first and highest priority is to persuade the Welsh Government to support the 'Blue Route'. This will continue to be a live issue moving forwards and we shall continue to monitor developments."

Obviously in the long term society and the Government also need to look at reducing car travel and the number of cars owned and using the roads, whilst providing reliable, regular and cheap public transport alternatives.


We've also contacted Ken Skates (Economy and Infrastructure, Labour AM) and Carwyn Jones (First Minister of Wales, Labour AM). Both have power to influence the decisions here. Unfortunately both seem to have ignored messages on this topic in the past, but maybe that is a misunderstanding.

At the moment Labour seem to be the ones who support this destructive scheme (it seems to be only supported by Labour AMs), but that means Labour have the power to stop it. It will only go ahead if Labour keep pushing for it. Likewise, they could stop it in its tracks if they wanted.

If Ken Skates and Carwyn Jones reply and it turns out we were wrong in assuming they support this terrible scheme, then we'll update the post. Otherwise it will show how little Labour care for our natural environment, and areas such as the Gwent levels.


Andy said...

I'll share this now and write to them. Ta.

Elaine Hughes said...

If they won't come out and stick up for the environment, then they're useless.

Anonymous said...

Always addicted to roads. We have to protect our green spaces from destruction for such frivolous purposes.

Roger said...

I've written too. I'm spreadign the word. We need to make sure politicans and parties that support this damage get shamed and never get voted for again.