The first big climate-friendly decision: Wales opts for “a high quality, multi-modal, integrated and low carbon transport system”
The Financial Times reports that plans to build an M4 bypass to reduce congestion on the M4 which links London with South Wales, were rejected yesterday by Wales’ first minister, Mark Drakeford.
He attached great weight to the “substantial adverse impact” on the environment, in particular the Gwent Levels’ Sites of Special Scientific Interest, their network of ancient waterways, wet grassland, reedbeds, saltmarsh and saline lagoons with endangered and rare species of wildlife, managed by Gwent Wildlife Trust and ‘an army of volunteers’.
Ian Rappel, chief executive of the Gwent Wildlife Trust, commended the decision to reject the UK’s most ecologically damaging motorway scheme.
The business community in Wales and the UK government had backed the project, although some economists had argued that increased road access to South Wales would have sucked investment out of the region to the more prosperous west of England. However, Mr Drakeford said the cost to the Welsh government and the project’s impact on other capital investments were not acceptable.
A point not mentioned in this article is that several studies (1994-2017) – including one accepted by the UK government – have found that the relief offered by such a bypass will be temporary, due to the ‘induced traffic’ phenomenon. When a new road is built it generates extra traffic because of the presence of the new road, many new trips are made and longer distances are travelled.
Wales passed the 2015 Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, which was hailed by the UN as a model piece of legislation for sustainable development.
The Welsh government, which also declared a “climate emergency” in April, is to set up a commission with a mandate to develop “a high quality, multi-modal, integrated and low carbon transport system” and recommend alternatives to the 23-km dual three-lane motorway bypass.