A nationally important wildlife area
One of the UK’s most precious wetland landscapes is under threat from the Welsh Government's road building plans.
Imagine a world where nature isn’t protected. Where governments build new motorways through iconic areas protected for wildlife. More noise, more pollution, less nature.
You won’t need to imagine for long because the Welsh Government plans to build a section of the M4 motorway which would concrete over 8kms of the Gwent Levels, despite them being legally protected as a nationally important site for wildlife.
The Gwent Levels are home to an astonishing array of wildlife including lapwings, otters, water voles and one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees, the shrill carder bee, plus a host of rare plants. A diverted M4 motorway would create noise and light pollution, and in places form a barrier of traffic that would be impossible for wildlife to cross. It would result in pollution seeping off the road surfaces into the surrounding waterways –which is essential for wildlife here. Building a new road straight through it would have a devastating and irreversible effect.
Many conservation organisations, including the Wildlife Trusts in Wales and Friends of the Earth Cymru, have asked the Welsh Government to consider a cheaper and less damaging alternative known as the blue route.
Another report by climate change experts Professor Kevin Anderson and Dr Steven Glynn from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University concludes that this preferred route will “almost certainly lead to an increase in total carbon emissions”.
The potential impact of the proposed M4 relief road on greenhouse gas emissons, commissioned by Wildlife Trusts Wales, also states that: “it is evident that insufficiently rigorous analysis has been presented to appropriately address the implications of the M4 proposal for the total level of greenhouse gas emissions”.
The Welsh Government has argued that a new M4 will reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions and make “Wales more resilient to the effects of climate change”.
However, the report highlights three significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions that the Welsh Government failed to take account of in their deliberations; namely that:
1. New roads will generate new traffic increasing both short term and long traffic numbers with limited relief to alternative routes. This increase in traffic will increase, rather than decrease, greenhouse emissions.
2. The embedded carbon from the manufacturing, and maintenance of, energy-intensive construction materials (e.g. concrete, tarmac and steel), as well as fuel consumed by construction equipment. This will create significant greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Disturbance of 9kms of the Gwent Levels carbon rich soils will likely cause these soils to emit potentially vast amounts of stored greenhouse gases.
The report concludes that “if the Welsh Government is to uphold its repeated climate change commitments and develop evidence-based policies informed by science it is difficult to envisage how the M4 relief road can be justified…”
Read The Blue Route report Read the Tyndall Centre report