New M4 plans scrapped - breaking news

We're delighted to share the news that the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, has shelved plans for a new motorway over Wales’ Amazon Rainforest – The Gwent Levels. It's great news for both people and wildlife that the UK’s most ecologically damaging motorway scheme has been scrapped for good and we congratulate the First Minister Mark Drakeford on his decision and recognition of the vital wildlife haven that is the Gwent Levels.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has supported and been involved in the #SaveTheGwentLevels #NoNewM4 campaign: including all 7,000+ of you who sent an email of objection to the First Minister Mr Drakeford and the 21,000+ people who also signed the #NoNewM4 petition and rallied with us at the Public Inquiry and outside the Senedd.

At a time when international studies have revealed that the world is on the brink of the sixth mass extinction - where 40 per cent of our insects are declining and after a Climate Emergency was recently declared in Wales – we congratulate Welsh Government for the bold decisions they are making for the future health of people and wildlife. 

It’s been a long and hard-fought battle and together we have shown that people can make a difference if you stand together, speak out and fight for what is right for the future of people, wildlife and our planet. We hope this decision can be the catalyst for real change throughout Wales, and beyond, to show that there are genuine alternatives to the destructive business-as-usual approach. It also shows that we can all do our bit to not only protect but enhance the world around us.

We still need your help

If you haven't already, please support our Bridewell Appeal to create a new Nature Reserve on the Gwent Levels and safeguard this awe-inspiring corner of Wales for future generations to enjoy.

Join us for a #WilderFuture and play your part in nature’s recovery. Help us to create strong laws which will help our wildlife make a comeback – and establish a Nature Recovery Network which will enable us to plan a wilder future.

Donate to our Fighting Fund – Please give as much as you are able to help us continue to oppose the most damaging developments for wildlife, like the now-shelved new M4 across the Gwent Levels. You can give online here. We are grateful for the generous support of our members, supporters and the many legal professionals and others who have given their time pro bono to support our appearance in the Public Inquiry. 

If you're not already a member of Gwent Wildlife Trust, please consider joining us today. 

Read our closing statement to the Public Inquiry into the M4.

The proposed new M4 'black route', a 14 mile motorway around Newport, Gwent in South Wales will damage our own Magor Marsh nature reserve, four 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.

Please Act Now. The Public Inquiry has concluded, with the Welsh Government making their final decision in weeks. This campaign has been dragging on for 20 years, some say it’s a ‘done deal’. It isn’t. We can make our politicians listen and wake up to their commitments to future generations. Our countryside, our wildlife, our future well-being 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 successful reintroduction project at Magor Marsh of this keystone species means they are thriving in the planned new M4 motorway area. However, the proposed new M4 will jeopardise the future of water voles on the Gwent Levels. Read more about the impact of the new M4 on the UK's fastest declining mammal here:
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 on the Gwent Levels.

Common cranes - these rare birds have returned to breed on the proposed M4 motorway route. Brought back from extinction these impressive birds are now facing a man-made threat from the M4. Read our press release about the cranes here:

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 UK's 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 motorway across the Gwent Levels for over 20 years. In May 2016, we submitted a comprehensive response opposing the plans with our clear reasoning, (see M4 GWT Response May 2016 below.) We gave evidence at the Public Inquiry, which started on February 28, 2017, at the Lysaght Institute in Newport. We worked with lawyers, expert witnesses and prepared testaments so we could stand up for wildlife. Unfortunately, the system involved 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, #SaveTheGwentLevels.

You can read the press release we issued at the end of M4 Public Inquiry here:

Wildlife Trusts Wales gave evidence to the Environment and 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 hundreds of hectares of land will be covered in tarmac, land that has been in farming generations for hundreds 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.



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.


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