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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Welsh Government policies challenged

It is a significant day for two major Government-backed projects, both of which could dramatically change the economic outlook for Wales.

Over in Ebbw Vale a public inquiry has got underway into plans to build a £325m motor racing circuit in the south Wales valleys. The eight-day hearing is examining the request to take over 250 hectares (600 acres) of common land.

This is a private sector initiative of course but it has had significant support from the Welsh Government. There are conflicting accounts from experts over claims the circuit will damage habitats and plant life by building on the common land.

Natural Resources Wales say that it is "difficult to conclude" that the replacement land is of equal value, but it is not opposing the development overall. Whilst an ecology report presented by the developers says there would be a "net gain" in biodiversity because the plans include work to enhance other habitats nearby, which the Gwent wildlife trust are arguing against.

Meanwhile, an equally significant case is underway as campaigners seek to judicially review the Welsh Government's choice of route for the M4 extension around Newport. Friends of the Earth believe that reasonable alternative routes, especially the “Blue” route proposed by leading transport expert Professor Stuart Cole, had not been properly assessed before the preferred 'Black route' was given the go-ahead.

However, business groups like the CBI say a new route for the M4 is essential to overcome persistent bottlenecks at the Brynglas tunnels. They argue that delays are damaging the Welsh economy.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats do not support the Government's chosen route for this road, believing that it is expensive and environmentally damaging. What happens in court will determine how far this particular proposal gets and whether the Assembly will get a real say in its future.
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