Party Political Views on the Environment – elections 2016
Sustainability of major land-use changes (such as the Circuit of Wales, M4 Relief road); do the stated advantages of the development (some of which may not turn out as claimed) outweigh the permanent loss of key habitat?
The permanent loss of key habitat, or the depriving of future generations of the beauty and delights of our natural treasures, cannot be taken lightly. Such a rationale lay behind the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act passed by the Welsh Assembly, and one which Plaid Cymru considers of paramount importance.
It is evident that if Natural Resources Wales had a clearer remit as a guardian of the environment, such land-use changes would not have come to fruition. Indeed, it is fair to suggest that if the Wellbeing Goals stipulated by the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act are applied effectively, then plans such as developing the black route option for the M4 relief road through the Gwent Levels should never see the light of day. I believe that this particular example will be a litmus test for the new Act.
The proposed M4 relief road would destroy the nationally important wetland area of the Gwent Levels, home to almost 200 rare species. The Wales Green Party is completely opposed to this proposal. At £830m, creating a new relief road for the M4 is not only hugely environmentally damaging but also incredibly expensive. Other traffic management measure for the Newport area would represent far better value for money and still ensure that Newport’s precious “green lung” can continue to provide a home for species and benefit local residents alike.
Relevant policy areas:
TR603 We oppose new road building or widening schemes except for essential access or safety reasons. We oppose any additions to or extensions of the existing motorway system (such as the proposed alternative M4 across the Gwent Levels).
UKIP did not reply to our letter.
Welsh Conservatives believe that our moors and meadows and wildlife and nature are a crucial part of our national identity. We care about them deeply and want to protect them for everyone and pass them on to future generations. Our natural ecosystems are a priority for us, and that is why we believe that every major land-use change and planned development such as the Circuit of Wales or M4 relief road should be properly considered and weighed up before any decision is made. Each project has its own set of circumstances and balance of positives and negatives, so there can be no ‘one size fits all’ solution. My predecessor Antoinette Sandbach fought a strong campaign to ensure that the environment concerns surrounding the circuit of Wales were fully addressed and I hope that her work isn’t ignored as we move into the construction phase. I do not believe that we should always oppose progress and development but we must ensure that the environmental impact of schemes such the M4 relief road and circuit of Wales are fully taken into account at the start of the process as we cannot correct things retrospectively.
Welsh Labour believes that major infrastructure investment forms part of delivering a more sustainable future for Wales. This can include investment in all modes of transport. We have also invested over £245m during this Assembly term in flood and coastal defences supported by an additional £50million from Europe.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats and I, as Shadow Minister for the Environment, approach both the Circuit of Wales and the M4 relief road with a high degree of scepticism. I remain to be convinced that the benefits of the Circuit of Wales will outweigh the environmental harm, but given that it looks set to go ahead, we must make sure that the best is made of the situation, in terms of planning condition and community payback.
The M4 Relief road on the other hand is far from a lost cause in terms of the party’s campaign against the proposed Black Route. With Welsh Labour in disarray in the face of their own government’s plans, we will continue to campaign for an alternative route which is less expensive, less likely to damage vast swathes of our environment and academically supported. We would invest in public transport and start detailed planning towards the South Wales Metro, and it is for all these reasons that we ensured no final construction contracts would be awarded this side of the Assembly election, meaning the entire project can still be scrapped by the next Welsh Government.