PM hints at plan to pave over Gwent Levels – and Welsh Government – to build M4 relief road

M4 traffic at Port Talbot. Picture by Ben Salter (CC BY 2.0).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested that he will overrule the Welsh Government to build the M4 Relief Road over the Gwent Levels.

Transport is a devolved issue in Wales and the Welsh Government rejected the plans to build the £1.6bn relief road exactly a year ago this month, citing the cost and impact on the environment.

The plans would have seen a 14-mile motorway built in a bid to tackle the congestion faced by motorists around Newport.

But at Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson suggested that the UK Government would overrule the Welsh Government and go ahead with the plan.

“That is because this government is absolutely committed to levelling up across the whole of the UK, in Wales and everywhere with investment in infrastructure, education and in technology,” he said.

“We will do the things that the Welsh Labour Government, have failed to do, such as unblocking the Brynglas Tunnels and allowing that proper M4 bypass which has long been needed.

“We will provide the Vicks inhaler to the nostrils of the Welsh dragon and get Wales moving.”

 

‘Big changes’

Speaking in December Mr Drakeford said: “I’ve made my decision and it is an entirely devolved decision. The Prime Minister has no say in the M4 Relief Road whatsoever. It is not the way the system works.”

If forced upon the Welsh Government he said: “Then you’re talking about very big changes indeed and a Prime Minister that would launch an assault on devolution… the way devolution works is the money comes to the Welsh Government and it is then for the National Assembly of Wales to decide how the money is spent, not for a Prime Minister in London.”

At least £44m was spent by the Welsh Government on a public inquiry and other development costs.

Friends of the Earth Cymru backed the decision at the time, with director Haf Elgar saying: “This is great news for Wales and the planet.

“As well as costing Welsh taxpayers over £2bn, this devastating road would have ploughed through the unique, wildlife-rich Gwent Levels, pumped more climate-wrecking emissions into our atmosphere, and ultimately caused even more congestion and air pollution.”

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