A PUBLIC inquiry into the dualling of the Heads of the Valleys Road between Abergavenny and Gilwern began yesterday.

The inquiry, held at the Old School Community Centre, Gilwern, will consider three orders to amend the route and make improvements which include; a major new junction at Brynmawr, new slip roads, re-aligning a 2.2km stretch of part of the route and make compulsory purchase land orders, all of which are essential if the scheme is to be completed.

Work to turn the final 8.1km stretch of the A465 into a dual carriageway by construction firm Costain Limited is due to begin later this year and completed in 2017 at a cost of £190.1 million.

The Welsh Government inquiry, is led by planning Inspector Bill Wadrup and is expected to last a month.

At the hearing, attended by around 50 people, Graham Walters, an advocate on behalf of the Welsh Government, presented the case for the authority because the A465 is a trunk road.

He said the scheme would require 122 hectares of land in total as well as the demolition of eight buildings, which is considered to be the minimum necessary to construct the scheme.

Mr Walters said the upgrade would provide better access to West Wales and improve links to Central Wales and the West Midlands. It would reduce congestions and journey times, improve safety for users and contribute to the regeneration of the Heads of the Valleys area.

Construction would create an average of 250 jobs for local people and 350 at its peak, excluding the contractors, management and design staff.

He said: “Since almost the entire scheme is within the Brecon Beacons National Park, the loss of wildlife habitat within the national park is unavoidable," adding that this would be mitigated through the planting and habitat creation.

He added: “For a major road improvement project of this scale and given the inherent sensitivity of the receiving landscape, it is considered unlikely that some of the significant adverse residual effects upon the landscape character and views could be avoided.”

Mr Walters said traffic flows along that section range between 17,000 to 21,000 vehicles per day and if completed, from 2017, the scheme would forecast preventing 163 accidents over the next 60 years, compared to if the road remains as it is.

Giving evidence, Matthew Enoch, the Welsh Government’s Project Director, said the proposed scheme would address issues including slow moving vehicles travelling uphill through the Gorge, substandard visibility, lack of overtaking opportunities and congestion in places at peak times.

The plans include four new junctions created at Brynmawr, Saleyard, Gilwern and Glanbaiden, five footbridges, thirteen new bridges and six bus stops. The road will be widened into a split level as it passes through Clydach Gorge which is considered one of South Wales’ most important environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas, and a number of communities either side.

Mr Wadrup will hear representations before submitting his recommendations to the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, who will then consider his report before making a decision.

The hearing continues.