ARGUMENTS presented in the M4 road relief inquiry could be setting a “dangerous” and “damaging” precedent in their interpretation of legislation, the future generations commissioner for Wales has claimed.

The public inquiry into the new £1.1bn M4 relief road around Newport is due to resume next Tuesday. Ahead of this, Sophie Howe has submitted further evidence to the inquiry.

The Welsh Government has welcomed the commissioner’s views.

Ms Howe said: “A dangerous precedent could be set if arguments presented in the M4 inquiry misinterpret the Well-being of Future Generations Act and undermine the spirit and purpose of the Act.”

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. It will make the public bodies listed in the Act think more about the long-term, work better with people and communities and each other, she continued.

In her letter to the inquiry, Ms Howe said: “I fully recognise the challenge of transitioning from a traditional approach (when the idea of a new section of motorway was conceived) to this new innovative and revolutionary way of working in the Act but I believe that we must all rise to the challenge to ensure the benefits foreseen by the act are fully realised.

“Business as usual is no longer an option.

“As I previously say the M4 project given its scale and importance must not set the wrong example which could permanently damage the spirit of the legislation.”

The commissioner disagreed with the statement made by Morag Ellis QC in the Welsh Government’s opening statement in which he said there may be “trade-offs” between desirable objectives and goals. He also said that the “sustainable” development principle therefore involves striking a balance between different needs.

Ms Howe added: “It is my view that not only is this is an incorrect interpretation of the Act but it could set a damaging precedent which could undermine the spirit and intention of the legislation.

“The Act moves us away from the traditional trades-offs approach to one of balancing in a more literal sense.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said the commissioner’s views are “welcomed” to ensure that the ongoing public inquiry “openly and robustly” scrutinises whether the M4 project is the “sustainable, long-term” solution to the problems associated with the M4 around Newport.

He said: “All views are being taken into consideration before a final decision is made next year on whether to proceed with this major project.”