Green Party leaders visited the Gwent Levels yesterday (1 April), an area under threat from motorway expansion.
Co-Leader Sian Berry joined Deputy Leader and candidate in the upcoming Newport West by-election, Amelia Womack, to meet campaigners working to protect the region from a proposed M4 diversion that threatens its delicate ecosystem.
The Gwent Levels are a 900-mile long network of waterways to the south of Newport, Wales, on the coast of the Severn Estuary. The network of fields, floodplains and drainage ditches, also known as ‘reens’ to locals, is home to a diverse number of animals and plants, including endangered species, and the Levels are an important landscape for both wildlife and people – acting as a natural floodgate for Newport, helping to tackle air pollution and boosting the local economy.
Some of the animals that make their home in the Levels include endangered water voles, a rare breed of bumblebee, the aquatic King Diving Beetle and the common crane (which only recently returned to the area after 400 years of absence).
Here in Newport we need investment in local infrastructure that makes public transport the easiest and cheapest option
Controversially, the Welsh Government is considering a diversion to the M4 that would run through the Gwent Levels, designed to tackle congestion on the main route. A public inquiry into the new motorway, launched after thousands of objections to the plan were submitted, came to an end in March 2018 – but a final decision on whether the new motorway will go ahead has been delayed until after the Newport West by-election, which will take place this week (4 April).
The government has suggested that the relief road would actually bring environmental benefits – reducing air pollution for those who live close to the current congested M4 – but environmental campaigners have been taking all steps possible to halt the progress of the project. Womack and Berry met with Catherine Linstrum, who set up Campaign Against the Levels Motorway (CALM) to fight against the development.
Womack, who has lived in Newport all her life, commented: “This M4 bypass will destroy one of the UK’s important ecological habitats, affecting breeding birds, rare bees and local wildlife. Here in Newport we need investment in local infrastructure that makes public transport the easiest and cheapest option that’s accessible to everyone, including the 28 per cent of residents who don’t own a car or van. Removing these journeys from our roads frees up road space, and reduces peak time congestion.
“As MP, I would do everything in my power to deliver modern, sustainable transport solutions for my hometown, which is why I hope people will vote Green in the Newport West by-election.”
Berry added: “Our government, the National Assembly for Wales and councils across the country continue to turn to road-building programmes reminiscent of the 1950s. These projects have no place in the 21st century, especially when we are already feeling the effects of climate breakdown.
“All evidence shows that new roads create new traffic; the only way to tackle traffic issues is to have real green investment to boost our public transport networks, and support walking and cycling journeys. That's the kind of fresh vision Amelia will champion as MP for Newport West.”
Today @sianberry and I visited the Gwent Levels to hear how the M4 relief road would harm our environment. Loss of habitats and loss of our natural heritage are just two of the many reasons we say #NoNewM4 and are calling for sustainable transport solutions. pic.twitter.com/vBPiYS6OX2— Amelia Womack 🏴 (@Amelia_Womack) April 1, 2019