THE report published yesterday by Wales’ future generations commissioner, Sophie Howe, which labelled the Welsh government’s support of the M4 Black Route as unambitious, has been met with both praise and criticism.

Ms Howe has proposed investing in public transport rather than building the Black Route – a new section of motorway to relieve the pressure on the M4 around Newport.

READ MORE: M4 Black Route plan unambitious, says the future generations commissioner for Wales Sophie Howe

Her plan has won support from residents’ groups on Severnside who would be on the fringes of the proposed new motorway.

Mario Bisi, from Magor, said the Black Route “wasn’t good value for money”.

He said: “I agree the M4 has problems but the money could be much better spent on alternative solutions.”

Mr Bisi said those solutions included giving better connections to trains, installing a tram system, and improving the SDR in Newport.

Many people in Magor, he said, wanted a train station instead of a new road, and had fears about pollution and the destruction of the Gwent Levels, a nearby SSSI (site of special scientific interest).

Similar concerns meant Ms Howe’s report was also praised by environmental groups.

Gwent Wildlife Trust’s chief executive, Ian Rappel, “fully endorsed” the report. He said: “The current proposed motorway is massively damaging for people and wildlife, totally unsustainable and uneconomical and its route will destroy an irreplaceable and precious area of the Gwent Levels forever.

“As a progressive and innovative government, we hope [the Welsh government] will act to protect and save one of Wales’ greatest assets and instead of building a motorway, put in place modern transport solutions such as the South Wales Metro.”

South Wales Argus:

(An egret at the Gwent Levels. Picture: Neil Aldridge)

An RSPB spokesman said: “The Gwent Levels is not only home to rare wildlife – it is the lungs of the most urban and industrialised corner of our country. It provides...places to walk, play and explore, with clean air and water to live on, and wildlife to enjoy. Destroying it would be a loss for our communities, as well as nature. What we should be aiming for is a solution to the M4’s traffic problem that works for both people and nature.”

The reaction to Ms Howe’s report from the business community was less welcoming, with critics saying a relief road for the M4 was vital to the future of the city’s economy and people.

Heather Myers, chief executive of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce, said the report was neither balanced nor neutral

She said: “There don’t seem to be any hard proposals, just idealistic views. These are not solutions to the problems Welsh businesses are facing right now, every day.

She said regular calls for money to spent on public transport “always amount to nothing, and we have no confidence that it will be any different this time.”

Robert Lloyd Griffiths, head of IoD Wales (The Institute of Directors), said: “The M4 is the artery leading in and out of South Wales and we have been debating, discussing, analysing, mulling over...and talking about it for far too long. For the business leaders I speak to day in, day out, the message on improving the M4 is clear: get it done and get it done quickly.”

South Wales Argus:

(The Black Route will ease congestion on the M4 around Newport, its supporters say)

However, Ben Francis, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, found positives in the report, saying: “There has for too long been an interpretation that all of the business community agrees with [the] assessment” that the Black Route is the only viable option.

“We may not agree with the entirety of the commissioner’s assessment”, he said. “However, this contribution is important in providing a debate about the need to future-proof our transport infrastructure in Wales.

“It is our fundamental view that there is a negotiable and positive balance between economic development and sustainable development and so the Commissioner’s perspective cannot be dismissed.”