UKIP has dropped its opposition to the ‘black route’ M4 relief road in South Wales, boosting the controversial scheme’s chances of going ahead.
In its manifesto for the Welsh Assembly election last month, UKIP declared: ‘We … oppose the Welsh government’s preferred “black route” M4 relief road due to its excessive £1bn-plus cost, the enormous damage it would cause to several Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the likelihood that it would take a decade to build, and the fact that it would blow close to the entire Welsh capital budget on one project in South East Wales.’
However, former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton, now UKIP’s leader in the Assembly, said last week: ‘Our view is that the black route would be better than no route and we don’t want to find ourselves in a situation … where there’s endless talk and no action.
‘In relation to the black route or the blue route, my party is prepared to enter into discussions and negotiations with the government.’
Labour does not have a majority in the Assembly, and some of its AMs oppose the black route.
First Minister Carwyn Jones (Labour) responded that the black route process continues but needs a proper inquiry. ‘I am keen that other options are examined as well, as part of that public process.’
Opposition leader Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) said: ‘It looks like you might be able to strike a deal with UKIP, first minister, on the future of the black route. How very interesting.’
The proposals are for a 23km motorway that would cross the River Usk using a cable stayed bridge to ease problems from the bottleneck at the Brynglas tunnels. The Black route would cut through protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
This prompted 10 leading environmental charities to write an open letter to the Welsh Government objecting to the current M4 relief road plans, the BBC reports.
Signatories include the directors and chief executives of Wildlife Trusts Wales, Friends of the Earth Cymru, RSPB Cymru, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, Sustrans Cymru, the Campaign for Better Transport, the Woodland Trust, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation Wales and the Bat Conservation Trust.
Decision on whether to hold a public local inquiry: summer 2016
Public local inquiry: autumn 2016
Start of construction: spring 2018
Completion of new section of motorway: autumn 2021
Completion of reclassification of existing motorway: autumn 2022