THE Welsh Government could get on and build the £1 billion M4 relief road immediately, George Osborne said today.
But one environmental campaigner said that was impossible when the Welsh Government hadn’t yet made a decision on last year’s consultation.
The Chancellor’s comments come as south east Wales continues to wait for the results of a Welsh Government consultation into building the M4 relief road which ended last year.
A decision on that work isn’t expected until the summer.
Mr Osborne was asked on the BBC if it was his view that the Welsh Government could start to build the new M4 immediately.
He said: “Yes, that’s my view. I spent the night in Cardiff but yesterday clearly on the M4 there was your usual traffic problems.
“It’s one of the bottlenecks for the entire United Kingdom... not dealt with for years and years.”
The UK Government has said that officials in Cardiff will be able to use existing borrowing powers to fund the project. The chancellor said: “Why wait for a vital improvement that will support jobs in the area.”
Despite strong support for the project from the CBI and several Newport politicians, many concerns have been raised about whether the Welsh Government would be able to afford the road and its environmental impact.
The Gwent Wildlife Trust and Friends of the Earth Cymru have also threatened potential legal action.
Friend’s of the Earth Cymru’s Gareth Clubb said it was “absolutely incorrect” that work could start immediately: “It’s impossible for work to start before a decision has been made.”
Transport minister Edwina Hart has said she’s going to make a decision in the summer, Mr Clubb said, adding that the group’s legal threat against the project is still outstanding.
“We are waiting to see if the Welsh Government has taken into account all options other than building an M4 to the south of Newport,” he said.
Conservative Newport councillor Matthew Evans, opposition leader, said he was “tired of speaking to the media about when there was going to be progress” on the project.
“This is vital for the economy of south east Wales,” he said.
Lindsay Whittle, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East, said building the new M4 was “not the best answer for South East Wales” and that the cheaper and less environmentally damaging alternative is to improve the existing A48.
William Graham AM, Shadow Minister for Business, said the M4 is creaking under the weight of daily congestion: “Sadly, Welsh Labour Ministers sat on their hands during the years of plenty when they had the funds to invest in infrastructure.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are currently considering responses to the consultation and an announcement is due in the summer.”