PLANS to build an M4 relief road around Newport could be unlawful, say Friends of the Earth Cymru, who have launched a judicial review of the scheme.

The group say the plans to build the road through the Gwent Levels wetlands, one of Wales’ most important wildlife habitats, have prompted this legal challenge to the road.

A judge will now examine whether the Welsh Government unlawfully limited the range of reasonable alternatives, by only considering a new motorway south of Newport and two similar variations. They will also consider if the plan’s substantial damage to protected wildlife sites is permitted by law.

Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, Gareth Clubb said: “This motorway would cause massive damage to important and protected wildlife. We think the Welsh Government has acted unlawfully, and there are better transport options they’ve not properly considered. We’re now asking a judge to decide whether the government is breaking the law.

“People from all walks of life have joined us in supporting alternatives, from business groups to political parties. Whether it’s because of the huge expense, the better transport alternatives, or the environmental damage, many thousands of people in Wales are against this unnecessary and unaffordable road.”

Chief Executive of Gwent Wildlife Trust (GWT), Ian Rappel, said: “GWT is in favour of this legal challenge because it’s absolutely essential that all environmentally sustainable options are fully considered in the face of transport issues. This is even more important when irreversible damage may occur on sensitive areas such as the Gwent Levels, which is a greatly valued landscape and complex ecosystem.

“GWT has been working alongside local communities to enhance and protect the Gwent Levels for half a century. We are determined to continue in that vein come what may.”