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M4 relief road cancelled after cost estimates rise to over £2 billion

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THE WELSH Government has ditched plans to build an M4 relief road.

After years of planning, a lengthy public inquiry, and extensive controversy both about the delays in making a decision and the potential environmental impact of the new road, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced his widely anticipated decision to cancel the project in a statement issued on Tuesday, June 4.

The M4 relief road was a marquee project for the Welsh Government; however, internal Labour politics slowed down progress towards a decision with the result that former First Minister Carwyn Jones passed the buck for the final decision to his successor. Mr Jones favoured the scheme, while Mr Drakeford was more equivocal about its prospects.

Originally proposed in 1991, the scheme was dropped by the Welsh Government in 2009 on grounds of cost (then an estimated £1bn) before being revived in 2011. The project secured UK Treasury support in 2013 and was approved by the then-Welsh Government Transport Minister Edwina Hart in 2014, with a completion date of 2022.

Since 2014, the road lingered in development hell through a raft of consultations and a public inquiry.

M4 decision: Drakeford slated for dither and delay

The First Minister’s decision to cancel the scheme raises questions about the huge amount of public money and government manpower expended on it. His principal objection is the same as that which led to the original scheme’s cancellation in 2009: money, or the Welsh Government lack of it/unwillingness to spend it.

Friends of the Earth Cymru director Haf Elgar said: “This is great news for Wales and the planet.

“As well as costing Welsh taxpayers over £2 billion pounds, this devastating road would have ploughed through the unique, wildlife-rich Gwent Levels, pumped more climate-wrecking emissions into our atmosphere, and ultimately caused even more congestion and air pollution.

“This decision is a testament to the untiring efforts of local residents who have opposed this plan over decades and is a clear signal that the Welsh Government is taking its climate emergency declaration and commitment to future generations seriously.”

Ian Price, CBI Wales Director, said: “This is a dark day for the Welsh economy. After decades of deliberation and over £40m spent, no problem has been solved today. Congestion and road pollution around Newport can only increase. Economic growth will be stifled, confidence in the region will weaken and the cost of an eventual relief road will rise

“Today’s announcement is a short-term measure that regrettably solves nothing and sends the message that Wales is not open for business.

“As the Welsh Government said at the public inquiry, the black route would emit less carbon emissions than the current road and the whole project would be carbon neutral by 2070. The wider south Wales region around Cardiff and Newport constitute only 4% of Welsh carbon emissions in total. That figure will now likely rise at a higher rate than if the black route had been built.”

On  his Facebook page, Stephen Crabb MP said: “They’ve bottled it. The Welsh First Minister’s decision not to give the M4 relief road the green light is short sighted and will be deeply frustrating for number of commuters, businesses and tourists.

“I’ve spoken to numerous Pembrokeshire businesses, from hauliers to tourism operators, who are all fully aware the damage the congestion around Newport does for our local economy. One Pembrokeshire haulage firm alone runs 40 lorries each way through the M4 bottle neck each day, with drivers calling it a ‘no go’ area between 7.30am and 10am in the morning and from 4pm to 6.30pm in the afternoon.

“This decision even contradicts the independent public enquiry led by a planning inspector which backed the project. This is a failure of devolution as the Welsh Assembly was supposed to help projects such as this get off the ground.

“I recently held a debate in Parliament about the importance of this project for the wider Welsh economy, so it is very disappointing that Mark Drakeford has dropped it especially as this issue has dragged on for nearly 30 years.”

Full in-depth coverage in The Herald this Friday

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Tregaron: Spider landed on driver before fatal crash

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A SPIDER landing on a woman’s hand caused a car crash which resulted in the death of her 11-year-old son, an inquest heard.

Tristan Silver was being driven to school by his mother Cloud Younger alongside his sister Branwen on May 4 2018, when the crash occurred near Tregaron.

The inquest in Aberystwyth on Wednesday (Jun 19) heard that the blue Subaru Legacy estate car drifted on to the wrong side of the A485 and hit a black Mitsubishi Shogun towing a trailer.

Farmer David Glyndwr Jones had loaded 60 lambs into the trailer before setting off for a market in Builth Wells with his wife. Around 8.45am Mr and Mrs Jones saw the Subaru driving towards them, and having seen that the vehicle was not slowing down, Mr Jones decided to pull his car into the verge and brace for impact.

When the cars met head-on, Mr and Mrs Jones, Mrs Younger and her daughter were left with minor injuries, but Tristan suffered serious head injuries. He was airlifted to hospital in Cardiff where he was pronounced dead.

After an interview with the police in June 2018, where Mrs Younger answered ‘no comment’ to each question, a prepared statement to police later explained that a spider had landed on her left hand as she was driving. This caused eight-year-old Branwen to start screaming, and Mrs Younger then tried to calm her daughter down, whilst continuing to drive.

The statement said that the Subaru had recently passed its MOT and all three people in the car were wearing seat belts. The inquest heard that the speed of the vehicle at the point of impact could not be ascertained, but Mr Jones said that his car was nearly at a standstill at the time of the crash.

Ceredigion Coroner Peter Brunton recorded a conclusion of misadventure.

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Plaid Cymru Cardigan hold event to support local initiatives

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MP Ben Lake led the evening

THE CARDIGAN plaid Cymru branch held a successful evening at the Fisherman’s Rest, Cardigan on Friday June 14 2019 to help share information and the experiences of local community benefit groups, as well as grant opportunities available to support such initiatives.

The evening was led by County Councillor Clive Davies and Member of Parliament for Ceredigion, Ben Lake. During the evening a presentation was given on far-reaching grant opportunities available for such community groups – drawing from examples of societies and community enterprises created in Cardigan over the last 5 years – and how they got started, grew from strength to strength, and received funding to achieve and support their objectives.

Following the meeting, Cllr Clive Davies said: “The success of local initiatives and groups have played a key role in Cardigan’s success as a vibrant market town over recent years. I welcomed the opportunity to further raise awareness of the opportunities and avenues of support available to such groups and enterprises to help them to continue to make an invaluable contribution to the town and local area.”

Ben Lake MP added: “Cardigan boasts a successful array of lively community projects and small businesses that have brought an added vigour to both the town and Ceredigion as a whole. It was useful to have the opportunity to discuss the challenges these groups face, as well as share information regarding the wide array of support and funding available to support and maintain their important work”.

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Ben Lake MP pledges support for advancing MS research

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BEN LAKE MP for Ceredigion has shown his support for investment in MS research, after visiting an exhibition by the MS Society in Parliament this week.

The exhibition, ‘Multiple Sclerosis – The Research Story’, gave parliamentarians the opportunity to hear from people living with MS and leading MS researchers around the UK. It featured personal objects from the MS community, representing what it’s like to live with the condition, alongside the latest developments in cutting-edge research.

Ben Lake, MP said: “I am delighted to have attended the MS Society’s parliamentary exhibit and see first-hand how close we are to stopping MS”

“MS is an unpredictable and challenging condition, which can be painful and exhausting. I want to see investment in this area of research continue to rise so everyone living with MS in Ceredigion and across the UK has access to effective treatments.”

Over the past 20 years MS research has led to major advances, including more than a dozen licensed treatments for people with the relapsing form of MS. But more investment is needed to find more, and better, treatments for everyone – including ones that can slow or stop MS from progressing.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Director of Research at the MS Society, said: “We’re really grateful Ben Lake MP has pledged their support for our work. More than 100,000 people live with MS in the UK and many are still left without treatment options that slow or stop progression. But we are at a turning point in MS research and the UK is at the forefront of this. We are closer than ever before to having treatments for everyone with MS, and stopping MS for good.”

The MS Society is the UK’s leading not-for-profit funder of MS research and is currently supporting over 70 active projects worth more than £20 million. To find out more about the MS Society and the vital research it is funding visit www.mssociety.org.uk

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