In this guest blog Hugh Mckay, from CALM (Campaign Against the Levels Motorway), explains why campaigners against a new M4 in south Wales will be rallying at the Senedd tomorrow.
As soon as an M4 relief road around Newport was first proposed in 1991, vigorous opposition sprung up from local residents, environmental organisations and community councils who soon formed CALM, the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway.
CALM has remained strong to the present day. Local people are still well-represented in our umbrella organisation, as are NGOs, including Campaign for Better Transport, Gwent Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Earth Cymru, RSPB Cymru, Woodland Trust Cymru, Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and Cycling UK.
Over the last 25 years, no road has been built and little has been done to improve sustainable transport in south Wales. The relationship between the availability of road space and the volume of traffic has become ever more apparent. However the phenomenon of induced traffic had been recognised for over 20 years before the relief road was first proposed.
The current 14 mile ‘Black Route’, goes through the Gwent Levels Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for six miles, which the Government’s own environmental body, Natural Resources Wales, considers ‘too great’ and ‘unprecedented’.
And the price tag is soaring. Carwyn Jones claimed only two years ago that a new M4 would cost ‘way under’ £1 billion, but it now looks like costing at least £2 billion. And this is to save an average of five minutes on peak time journeys.
The Inspector has written his report – apparently over 500 pages long – and civil servants are working on it. By the time you read this, ministers may have seen it. The National Assembly for Wales has been promised a debate and vote but this debate was deferred recently. The outgoing First Minister had said that he would be making the decision – but the Senedd, with the support of the Labour Group, decided on 29 November that this would not be the case. Plaid Cymru opposes the scheme, as does a growing number of Welsh Labour AMs; it also attracts opposition from at least some AMs in all of the other political parties.
The campaign is not just against a road. We have a vision. Our call is for a forward-looking transport policy based on a combination of frequent, affordable public transport and active travel. This is how society can make efficient use of space and energy. It is the only way for our towns and cities to be vibrant, liveable hubs. This also how we can provide for the transport needs of all – 28 per cent of households in Newport are without a car or van, for instance.
We are also looking to save and celebrate the Gwent Levels, which have been described as Wales’ finest wetland landscape. The Levels are one of our contributions to global biodiversity in the way that the Amazon rainforest is feted as a paramount responsibility for South American nations.
We feel that we are on the cusp of a breakthrough with the new M4. Dropping this plan will represent a significant paradigm shift – and free up vital public funds to invest in public transport and active travel enabling modal shift away from the car.
Another motorway by-pass isn’t going to fix the jams, instead it will increase the number of car journeys on our roads, causing more congestion across south Wales. We must make this breakthrough in transport policy and practice; for the benefit of people, society and a sustainable economy, as much as for the nationally important wildlife of the Gwent Levels.
To help make a reality out of this vision for Wales, we are holding a rally at the Senedd on Tuesday, 12.30-1pm. We are also encouraging people the length and breadth of Wales to contact their Assembly Members to call for #NoNewM4.
We hope that you will be able to join us in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday lunchtime. Placards and banners very welcome!
Hugh Mackay, CALM Campaign