Wales politics

M4 congestion 'can't carry on', says Edwina Hart

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Media captionEdwina Hart says she has spoken to business people who are "very content" about the M4 relief road plan

Transport Minister Edwina Hart has insisted that traffic problems around Newport must be dealt with, after two former Labour ministers criticised plans for an M4 relief road.

She told BBC Wales that no final decision had been taken to build a new road to the south of the city.

The decision will be made after the 2016 assembly election, she said.

Former environment ministers Alun Davies and John Griffiths have both spoken out against the scheme.

'Incredibly damaging'

The preferred, so-called "black route" for a relief road between junctions 23 and 29 of the M4 goes through the Gwent Levels wetlands, which environmental groups say is an important wildlife habitat.

Mr Griffiths, who represents Newport East, warned the assembly in a debate on Wednesday of the "incredibly damaging" environmental impact of the proposals.

Mr Davies told assembly members that the Welsh government had taken "the wrong decision" that did not reflect Labour Party "commitments" and called for the plans to be re-examined.

Image caption Some AMs have added their voice to warnings joined

Mrs Hart told Sunday Politics Wales that "out of 60 members there are some people who are not happy about this decision", but she denied there was growing disquiet and said that she had spoken to business people who were "very content".

"No decision has been taken," she said.

"I've made a decision on a preferred route, the preferred route will have a full environmental impact assessment.

"That's bound to, I think, be followed by a public inquiry and decisions will be made after the next assembly elections about whether to go ahead with it."

Borrowing powers

Responding to the criticisms of her former cabinet colleagues, she said: "We are in a democracy and people are entitled to their opinions and it doesn't frighten me if someone has a different opinion to me."

She added: "We certainly can't carry on with the situation we've got in Newport in terms of traffic - it's not helpful for traffic, it's not helpful for people commuting."

The Welsh government is acquiring powers to borrow up to £500m to help fund the scheme, although Mrs Hart stressed that not all of that would be spent on the M4.

Asked how the rest of the estimated £1bn cost would be paid for, she said the Welsh government would have to look at its "budget provisions" but stressed it was a long-term project.

"I'm just concentrating now on the really practical aspects of how we deal with the environmental impact when there's a public inquiry, so we get to the stage when somebody will make the final decision," she said.

Sunday Politics Wales is on BBC One Wales on Sunday at 11:15 BST.

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