PROTECTED wetlands have been "substantially" damaged by M4 survey work, a charity has said.

Welsh Government contractors caused damage to the Barecroft Common section of Gwent Wildlife Trust’s Magor Marsh nature reserve after a vehicle got stuck in the soil.

But further damage was caused as both the vehicle was left to sink over a weekend and an additional rescue vehicle also got stuck.

The Welsh Government said the damage would be repaired at the survey team's cost.

The vehicles had been on the site attempting to carry out geological ground survey work on the land, comprising of drilling, cone penetration and shear tests on behalf of the Welsh Government.

The Gwent Wildlife Trusts’ chief executive Ian Rappel criticised the damage which has been caused to the area.

He said: “This incident at Barecroft Common is almost a metaphor for Welsh Government’s disorganised and chaotic approach towards the M4 ‘Black Route’ – faced with the unfolding ecological, financial and social costs of this proposed scheme they have found themselves mired in controversy and bogged down in a political swamp."

Barecroft Common is owned by Gwent Wildlife Trust and is home to rare wildlife such as otters, water voles and shrill carder bees.

It is understood that geological ground surveys, such as those attempted at Barecroft Common, are being carried out at around 100 sites on the levels, impacted by the proposed route of the new M4 motorway.

In a statement, a Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “Due to recent heavy rain, a survey vehicle got stuck on the Gwent Levels at the entrance to a field. 

"The survey team will liaise with the Gwent Wildlife Trust and Natural Resources Wales as necessary to ensure the field is carefully reinstated at the survey team’s cost.”

Outgoing First Minister Carwyn Jones suggested he may not make a decision on the M4 relief road before he leaves office in two weeks' time.

The report of an independent inquiry into the scheme, which runs to 580 pages, has been received by the Welsh Government and is currently being considered by officials.