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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Welsh Government comes under fire on sustainability of M4 extension

It is not unusual for the Welsh Government to face criticism for their plan to build a huge M4 by-pass around Newport to remove congestion on the existing motorway.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are already on record as opposing this development. We are opposed to the route as it infringes on five SSSIs, to the fact that once more the Government is investing in polluting motor vehicles instead of public transport and that the whole development is contrary to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, which advocates a sustainable future for Wales.

I would add that the congestion on this stretch of the M4 is no worse than that around Port Talbot and Swansea, but the former gets priority because it benefits Cardiff. Yet another example of the Cardiff-centric bias of Welsh Government.

I am heartened this morning to find yet another ally in our opposition to this new motorway. As the BBC report, the future generations commissioner, a one time Labour activist and Councillor in Cardiff, has set out her opposition to the plan.

Sophie Howe argues that Welsh ministers are misinterpreting their own legislation in their case for a new motorway in Newport and that they could be setting a "dangerous precedent" in the way they have interpreted the Future Generations Act:

The Future Generations Act, which also created Ms Howe's job, requires ministers to take into account the economic, social, environmental and cultural impact of any policy decision.

Ms Howe, who has already raised objections to relief road, said the Welsh Government's QC, Morag Ellis, was wrong to suggest to the public inquiry that there would have to be trade-offs between those issues when deciding whether to press ahead with the new motorway.

In a letter to the public inquiry team, Ms Howe wrote: "I fully recognise the challenge of transitioning from a traditional approach (when the idea of a new section of motorway was conceived) to this new innovative and revolutionary way of working in the Act, but I believe that we must all rise to the challenge to ensure the benefits foreseen by the Act are fully realised.

"Business as usual is no longer an option.

"As I previously said the M4 project, given its scale and importance, must not set the wrong example which could permanently damage the spirit of the legislation."

Isn't it time the Welsh Government dropped this plan.
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