THE historic Gwent Levels should be declared as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Newport AM has said.

The call comes after the proposed M4 relief road - which would have cut through the historic landscape - was scrapped, with first minister Mark Drakeford saying he believed the road would have "a permanent adverse impact" on the area.

The decision was made despite a public inquiry report saying the scheme should be given the green light.

And now Newport East AM John Griffiths has said the Levels should be designated as Wales' sixth Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - or AONB - to protect it from future threats.


Designating an area as an AONB places strict restrictions on development in the area - meaning any proposed developments must be able to demonstrate the plans will enhance the area and not damage it in any way.

Labour AM Mr Griffiths said: "Following the welcome recent decision not to proceed with the M4 relief road, it is time to enhance the status and protection of this unique landscape of natural, environmental and historic significance.

"Making Gwent Levels the sixth AONB in Wales would help conserve the area for future generations, while attracting further visitors and tourism.

"It is now timely to bestow this designation in addition to the existing recognition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the fields and drainage ditches."

South Wales Argus:

(John Griffiths)

Responding to a question on the issue by Mr Griffiths in the Assembly earlier this week, environment, energy and rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths said the request is "being considered".

The idea has been welcomed by environmental groups, with Rob Hepworth of the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway (CALM) group saying: "We've discussed the idea on a number occasions.

"Everyone involved in CALM would want to see this happen.

"The problems with the Levels is it's being chipped away.

"The planning system is in favour of development, but, with an AONB, you really have to show a development enhances the AONB.

"This makes it harder for run-of-the-mill developments to go ahead."

And chief executive of Gwent Wildlife Trust Ian Rappel said the designation would "preserve this unique area in perpetuity, for people and wildlife".

"AONB status for the Gwent Levels would help us celebrate and enjoy the unique natural, cultural and archaeological characteristics of a wonderful landscape,” he said.

There are currently five AONBs, in Wales, including the Wye Valley, which is partially in Monmouthshire, and overlaps the border in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire in England. The others are the island of Anglesey, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley in north Wales, the Gower Peninsula near Swansea, and the Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynedd.

Natural Resources Wales has responsibility for designating AONBs in Wales.

There are 46 AONBs in the UK.