First Minister for Wales refuses permission for the M4 Newport Relief Road

By Emma Montlake

Gwent Levels, saved for now

The decision by the Welsh First Minister to refuse the M4 relief road proposals, which would have destroyed the unique and historic Gwent Levels, feels like a historic decision where nature has been put before economic development.

ELF has played a part in this historic decision and we would like to thank all those barristers, who through the ELF network gave so generously with their time – Charles Streeten of FTB, Grace Brown and Irena Sabic of Garden Court Chambers, Alastair Henderson, Hannah Noyce and Dominic Ruck-Keene of  1 Crown Office Row.

Anyone who cares about nature can’t have missed the amazing news that following a year-long Public Inquiry into the proposed M4 relief road, the decision of the First Welsh Minister to refuse permission to the project, means that the historic Gwent Levels are saved.

Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, stated:- I attach greater weight than the inspector to the adverse impacts that the project would have on the environment and ecology. In particular, I attach very significant weight to the fact that the project would have a substantial adverse impact on the Gwent levels sites of special scientific interest and their green network and wildlife, and on other species, and a permanent adverse impact on the historic landscape of the Gwent levels. As a result, in my judgment, the project’s adverse impacts on the environment, taken together with other disadvantages, outweigh its advantages.

ELF has played a part in this historic decision and we would like to thank all those barristers, who through the ELF network gave so generously – James Byrne of the Welsh Wildlife Trust who had coordinated much of the environmental objections, came to ELF two years ago looking for support. ELF reached out to the ELF membership and was able to secure advocacy support from Charles Streeten of FTB, Grace Brown and Irena Sabic of Garden Court Chambers and Alastair Henderson, Hannah Noyce and Dominic Ruck-Keene of  1 Crown Office Row. Each of these barristers gave their time with great generosity and ELF would like to thank them all.

The Inspectors report highlighted….

2.35 Gwent Wildlife Trust is a statutory objector whose land would be subject to the CPO but they made no application to the Inspectors for a direction in respect of either funding or appointment of Counsel. They were ably assisted and represented by an impressive team of Counsel who had volunteered their services.