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M4 relief road public inquiry kicks off

Words: Roger Milne
M4 across the River Severn

The public inquiry into the Welsh administration’s planned £1.1 billion M4 relief road to the south of Newport opened this week.

The hearing is expected to last five months as the proceedings consider up to 22 possible alternatives to the scheme and route preferred by ministers.  

The Welsh Government wants a 24-kilometre, six-lane stretch of motorway to relieve congestion on the current M4 between Magor and Castleton.

The administration says the current M4 to the north of Newport, opened in 1967, was originally designed as a city bypass and “does not meet modern motorway design standards”.

But the government’s proposals face significant opposition from residents, green groups and national and local politicians.

The proposed route cuts across the ancient marshlands of the Gwent Levels and four sites of special scientific interest.

A joint open letter from 11 organisations, including the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, Friends of the Earth Cymru and Sustrans Cymru, stated if the road went ahead “it will destroy ancient woodlands and miles of species-rich greens and ditches”.

The road would also cut through the first nesting site for common cranes in Wales in over 400 years.

Formal objections have come from bodies like the RSPB, Natural Resources Wales and the owners of Newport docks. The Welsh Government insists that effects on the natural environment will be mitigated.

Official analysis of the economics of the scheme suggests the project could deliver bigger benefits to parts of England (Bristol and Gloucestershire) than to the most deprived counties in South Wales.

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