A PUBLIC inquiry into the proposed M4 relief road which was due to be held next month has been delayed until March 2017, it has been announced this afternoon.

But the Welsh Government’s economy and infrastructure secretary Ken Skates has claimed the project will still be completed as planned by 2021.

Mr Skates has placed the blame for the delay squarely at the feet of the UK Government’s Department for Transport, which recently introduced a revised way of forecasting growth in traffic without informing the Welsh Government beforehand.

The Labour minister said: “The UK Government has already expressed its desire to see work on the M4 project start as soon as possible, so it is hugely disappointing that the Department for Transport chose only to engage with us on these amendments to their traffic forecasting three days before they were introduced forcing this regrettable delay to the start date of the public inquiry."

He added the Welsh Government remained committed to dealing with traffic problems on the highly congested section of the M4 around Newport.

“Assessments indicate that our proposed M4 project is the only reasonable solution, but it is only right and proper that the proposals are scrutinised robustly, transparently and openly in an inquiry and that we test the project in light of the most up-to-date information available to ensure that we deliver the right choice for the people in Wales,” he said.

“It is essential that we and others who wish to submit evidence to the public inquiry now take time to fully review these new Department for Transport figures before the inquiry begins.”

The inquiry, expected to last up to five months, will start by March 31 2017.