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“Stop This M4 Monstrosity”: Wildlife Campaign Reaches the Senedd

The plan to build a proposed motorway around Newport has been stalled after hundreds of protesters campaigned outside the Welsh National Assembly.

Protesters listened to speeches from politicians and NGOs in support of the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway on Tuesday, December 4th.

Campaigners voiced their opposition on Tuesday to a new motorway that would threaten a significant wildlife conservation area, and the decision will be left with the next First Minister of Wales.

The Gwent Levels south of Newport contain six Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and is home to one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees, the shrill carder, threatened birds such as the lapwing, as well as otters, water voles and breeding waders.

Conservationists from across Wales outside of the National Assembly.

Activists supporting the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway (CALM) say that the 14-mile road would cost over £2 billion, encourage more traffic in South Wales and contribute to global warming.

“We are completely opposed to the new M4 and want to protect the wildlife in the Gwent Levels,” says Debbie Stenner, of the Gwent Wildlife Trust. “It’s not a sustainable solution.”

The first pair of cranes to breed in Wales for centuries have chosen to nest in the Gwent Levels.

The Welsh government says the new motorway will help improve accessibility for people as well as Welsh goods and services to international markets, but protesters argue that an investment in sustainable transport is the solution.

“We need projects like the national cycle network,” says Gwenyth Sweatman, President of the NUS Wales. “New roads only mean more cars and more pollution. That’s not the world I want to live in.”

Campaigners are asking the government to increase investment in alternative transport, including trains, trams, cycle routes, walking routes and buses.

Liz Ozolins and Lee Murphy, both 27, say they are protesting for “the newts, otters, water moles, barn owls, bats and insects.”

“Right now in Newport we have one train stop,” says Lee Murphy, 27. “When my mom grew up, we had three. That’s where the pressure on the M4 is coming from.”

Debbie Stenner, representative of the Gwent Wildlife Trust, sees the CALM campaign as a “test case for the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act” and encourages students to get involved.

“Anyone who cares about the future of this environment needs to find out about this campaign,” she says. “It’s a really good way to act on a local level on something that is happening right now. And I think we can win this.”

The Assembly is weighing the findings of a public inquiry into the proposed development, and confirmed later on Tuesday that the decision on whether to build the M4 will be left to the next First Minister of Wales.