In his long-awaited announcement, Mark Drakeford stated:
“In particular, I attach very significant weight to the fact that the project would have a substantial adverse impact on the Gwent Levels SSSIs [sites of special scientific interest] and their reen [drainage ditch] network and wildlife, and on other species, and a permanent adverse impact on the historic landscape of the Gwent Levels”
There is no doubt that going ahead with the diversion would have been catastrophic for the wildlife the Gwent Levels. As well as rare species such as the shrill carder bumblebee and the water vole, the area is also home to many birds including the kingfisher, barn owl and the common crane.
Along with strong opposition from many individuals and organisations including CALM (Campaign Against the Levels Motorway) and Gwent Wildlife Trust, thousands of RSPB Cymru supporters also spoke out against the diversion.
A 38 degrees petition calling for the road to be stopped featured more than 20,200 signatures, with the number growing rapidly in the weeks leading up to Mark Drakeford’s decision.
Speaking about the decision, RSPB Cymru Director, Katie-Jo Luxton said:
‘We are incredibly relieved that the proposed 14-mile stretch of motorway no longer threatens to devastate the rare wildlife that calls the Gwent Levels home. Wildlife like the shrill carder bumblebee, whose Gwent Levels population is one of its two remaining strongholds in the whole of the UK, and the elegant common crane, which has only recently returned to breed in Wales after more than 400 years’ absence.
‘This kind of wildlife shows what a special place the Gwent Levels is for nature, but it is also a very special place for the communities that live there - whose wellbeing is restored by this precious green space so close to two of our major cities - and for its incredible history that makes it a significant landmark in our Welsh heritage.
‘We are relieved and inspired to know Wales has a Government that takes sustainable development seriously, holding true to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act to find transport solutions that provide social, environmental, cultural and economic benefits for Wales. Thanks to this responsible and forward-thinking decision, we know our children will get to enjoy the beauty, wildlife, history and health benefits of the Gwent Levels for many years to come, and for many generations after.’
Although we’d have been celebrating the decision regardless, the focus on the environmental damage that the road would have caused makes it even more impactful for us. The bold decision to cancel the road shows that the Welsh Government is finally taking nature’s decline seriously and is prioritising the creation of a more sustainable Wales.
With the road having been scrapped once and for all, we can now start working towards a sustainable Wales where we work together to reverse nature’s decline and secure a better future for ourselves and future generations.
As we continue to celebrate, we want to thank everyone who has helped us campaign on this extremely important issue. Without your incredible and passionate support, the outcome of the decision could have had a devastating impact on the wildlife of the Gwent Levels. As well as saving the home of some incredible species, this decision sets an excellent precedent for the future of our wildlife and the Wales that our children and theirs will inherit.
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