M4 Campaign - Save Magor Marsh Nature Reserve and the Gwent Levels

Images from the Gwent Levels

Join our campaign asking the Welsh Government to drop the M4 relief road proposal that will damage our Magor Marsh nature reserve and cut across the Gwent levels. As well as destroying people's homes and threatening precious wildlife and habitats, it's diverting a huge amount of funding from other more deserving issues.


The proposed M4 'black route', 14 mile ‘relief’ road around Newport, Gwent in South Wales will damage our own Magor Marsh nature reserve, 4 of Wales’ most precious sites for nature (SSSIs), the Wales Coastal Path and the Celtic Trail, part of National Cycle Route 4. Pollution from construction and traffic could enter the ancient reen and ditch systems that are home to, among other wildlife, water beetles, aquatic plants, otters and water vole. And it will cut a dangerous divide across the Gwent Levels, right through precious habitats. The new elevated bridge over the River Usk will bring noise and disruption for people in South and Central Newport and experts believe the new road will not solve any traffic problems. It will cost you and me over £1 billion, probably more than £2bn. (To say there are better ways to spend this public money is a huge understatement.) This is our last chance to stop it going ahead.

What you can do


Sign up to our campaign here, we will email you tools to help you register your objection with your AM or MP and keep you updated with what else you can do to support our campaign.

Sign our petition to the Welsh Government, your signature will be presented along with thousands of others at the public enquiry beginning on 28th February 2017.

Tell others, help us build support – We are a small, local charity trying to stand up against a juggernaut! We need everyone who cares about the Gwent Levels and the future wellbeing of local people to act. Share this page on FB and Twitter and tell your friends why you’re standing up, Tweet #lovethelevels, follow our Facebook page  to keep updated.

Please Act Now. On Tuesday, 28th February, the Public Inquiry will begin, with the Welsh Government making their final decision by the end of this year. This campaign has been dragging on for 20 years, some say it’s a ‘done deal’. It isn’t. But we all need to act now. We can make our politicians listen and wake up to their commitments to future generations. Our countryside, our wildlife, our future wellbeing is at stake.

Frequently Asked Questions


1. How does the new motorway threaten wildlife?
2. What is Gwent Wildlife Trust doing to stop this going ahead?
3. But aren’t there mitigation measures – to recreate threatened habitats?
4. How will it affect people?
5. Isn’t the new road worth it, if it will reduce traffic jams and accidents on the M4?

1. How does the new motorway threaten wildlife?

125 hectares of SSSI habitats (nationally designated areas for their wildlife) including grazing marsh and reedbed will be lost or irreparably damaged.
The Gwent Levels is one of the jewels of Wales, with immense cultural and historical significance. This rare wetland complex habitat is nationally important for its wildlife and is protected by national designations that encompass rare water beetles and other aquatic bugs and wetland plants that live in and around the area’s network of reens and ditches.


The wildlife that the new motorway threatens includes:
Otters – the biggest threat to this wonderful mammal is from road kills.
Water voles – a recent and successful reintroduction project of this keystone species means they are thriving in the planned area.
Breeding waders – lapwing, redshank and curlew all breed locally across the Levels, with further species on the nearby Newport Wetlands reserve.
144 Nationally Notable or Red Data Book aquatic invertebrate species (water bugs!) including water beetles and dragonflies have been recorded from the Gwent Levels.
The Levels also supports the nationally scarce rootless duckweed (Wolffia arrhiza). This is considered to be the world’s smallest flowering plant and occurs nowhere else in Wales.

waer voleLapwing photocredit Andy KarranKing Diving BeetleOtter

 

The Gwent Levels have suffered from severe development pressure over the years, which has continually eroded this amazingly rich habitat. If the proposals for road building go ahead, one of the UKs largest surviving areas of ancient grazing marshes and reen systems with its associated, unique wildlife will be irreparably damaged. There will be no getting it back.

Damage would not be limited to direct loss of habitat where the road is built; the road would create a barrier preventing the movement of wildlife between the protected areas not under concrete. In addition, the road will impede water movement between these isolated pockets and this could have permanently destroyed the wetland habitat. The pollution that runs off the road into the reen system is likely to pollute the water that is so vital for the important inhabitants of the wetlands.
 

2. What is Gwent Wildlife Trust doing to stop this going ahead?

Gwent Wildlife Trust and other organisations have been campaigning against proposals for a new M4 relief road across the Gwent Levels for over 20 years. In May, we submitted a comprehensive response opposing the plans with our clear reasoning, (see M4 GWT Response May 2016 below.) We will be giving evidence at the Public Inquiry, which will start on February 28th, 2017, at the Lysaght Institute in Newport. We are working with lawyers, expert witnesses and preparing testaments so we can stand up for wildlife. Unfortunately, the system involves a crude process where the price of participation in the planning process will determine the effectiveness of argument. That is a dangerous equation for meaningful sustainability.
Gwent Wildlife Trust have responded in detail to all of the M4 consultations (available for download below). We have been informing and encouraging our supporters and the wider community of Gwent to do the same and share #NonewM4, #savethelevels, #LovetheLevels.

Wildlife Trusts Wales gave evidence to the Environment & Sustainability Committee when they were investigating the consultation process followed. They also continue to advocate the value of the wildlife of the Gwent Levels and press for alternative measures at the national level.

Gwent Wildlife Trust and CALM (Campaign Against Levels Motorway) supported Friends of the Earth Cymru in their legal challenge against the Welsh Government. This stems from a firm belief that the latest consultation was unfair, as it did not consider reasonable alternatives to road building, that the options presented were too similar, and that the data used was outdated. We also believe that the objectives of the M4 program are biased towards road building.
 

3. But aren’t there mitigation measures – to recreate threatened habitats?

Richard Bakere, Gwent Levels Reserves Officer, explains.
“Wildlife, like people, can struggle with change. Our individual nature makes us cautious about anything new or uncertain, this trait has no doubt helped mankind’s survival over millennia.
The same instinct for survival is present throughout nature, it guides most animals movements and any responses to disturbance. As part of nature, humanities presence will always have an effect on our surroundings, walking past a feeding sparrow may encourage it to take flight and hide in a bush until we pass by, a small and in isolation insignificant disruption.
When the scale of the disruption is too great and the speed of change is swift, wildlife cannot respond and recover in human timescales. A very common suggestion whenever new developments are proposed - be it pipelines, roads or buildings - is that wildlife will move. The birds will fly and nest in the nearest field, vegetation will soon cover the ground and a balance will soon return. Sadly, this is seldom the case.
In natural timescales, bare ground will very swiftly be covered and become green, and some wildlife will take advantage of the opportunity to spread. This first flush of greenery normally contains only a fraction of the number of species when compared with established habitats, be it woodland, wetlands or grasslands. As the age and complexity any of site develops, more and more suitable habitats become available for wildlife to call home, these timescales are often measured more in centuries than months. So we need to be really cautious about seeing a flush of green and assuming that areas have recovered, and all is well.
The second blow for the unfortunate displaced wildlife which can move fast enough, is that if the surrounding habitat is suitable, it will already be home to as much life as it can support. It will be at its carrying capacity. These additional animals will be pushed into established areas that don’t have the resources to support them.
Disturbance and displacement may be clearly visible for animals and birds, but if we are to retain the broad mixture of wildlife that can be so abundant in our country, from the fungi in the soil which orchids need, to the snails and their unique parasites, the whole of nature needs conserving, not just a few chosen species.
I have frequently talked to people who have suggested that the wildlife in an area will move out of the way and settle down once a road has been built, if the road was built over a few centuries this might be true, but alas our timescales are so divorced from the nature around us that we often mistake any greenery for the sign of a healthy environment, and trees in any form as woodland.
We need to accept that we cannot engineer solutions to all wildlife problems and be more realistic about the timescales for recovery when disturbances are planned. The M4 black route amongst others is one of the most pressing threats to wildlife in our country, and unfortunately wildlife will not just move out of the way!

4. How will it affect people?

The effect on the people of the Gent Levels and Newport will be huge. Many residents and landowners have now received their Compulsory Purchase Orders from the Welsh Government and the new motorway will plough through 12 residential buildings – including the Grade II listed Vicarage in Magor and 100’s of hectares of land will be covered in tarmac, land that has been in farming generations for 100’s of years. 
Air pollution in and around the motorway will increase dramatically as well noise pollution and the Gwent Levels will no longer be a place of peace and tranquillity. The Gwent Levels is a nationally important place for both its historic landscape and wildlife, and the motorway proposals will create a huge cultural loss for the people of south-east Wales aswell, effecting peoples health and well-being by reducing our precious countryside that many people visit and feel the benefit in so doing.
The new motorway will no doubt ensure further opportunity for development in the isolated fragments of the Levels that remain especially to the north, a further loss of countryside and our greenspaces.
In 2015 the Welsh Government proposed meaningful environmental sustainability in their new Well Being of Future Generations Act. Just a year later and a 14 mile motorway is being proposed across a nationally important landscape. We asked some local children, who live on and near the Gwent Levels their thoughts on the motorway proposals. [Film coming soon.]


5. Isn’t the new road worth it, if it will reduce traffic jams and accidents on the M4?

Will it? Will there be more or less cars on the road in 2021, when the new road should be finished? How will VAT, inflation, maintenance, exchange rates affect the final cost? The Welsh Government has committed to decreasing carbon emissions. Yet by it’s own calculations, this scheme will cause a huge increase in carbon emissions during the long construction period.
To answer this, we would direct you to the experts. Professor Cole, acknowledged as one of Wales’ leading experts in transport economics and policy, has written a report which explains why road building is not the solution to our traffic problems which you can read here.
One of our arguments all along has been that predicted growth in traffic is not accurate. You only need to look at the frankly appalling record of such forecasts in recent years. The following graph comes from one of the England Highways Agency’s own publications (ref 1) and shows how the Department for Transport’s forecasts made in 1989 and 1997 compare to what actually happened:

To think of all the roads that have been built, all the wildlife destroyed, all the landscapes changed forever because of these flawed traffic growth predictions.

With claims of the current M4 section at Newport being a key barrier to the economy of South East Wales, I expected the Newport stretch to be way up there in a recent article in the news about Britains slowest motorways, using car tracking software. Sadly for the Welsh Government, it was no-where to be seen.

 

CALM

Gwent Wildlife Trust is a part of the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway (CALM) alliance. This is a group of organisations and individuals opposed to road building on the Gwent levels. CALM members include Gwent Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Earth Cymru, Gwent Ornithological Society, CPRW, Community Councils, and concerned individuals.

Downloads

FilenameFile size
M4 GWT Response May 2016.doc1.4 MB
Material for Objection Letter June 2016.doc17.17 KB
M4 Corridor Enhancement Measures GWT Response 2015.pdf194.4 KB
GWT Strategic Environmental Report Response 2015.pdf193.49 KB
GWT Final Response to M4 Consultation November 2013.pdf119.83 KB