• M4 diversion would cut through four areas of Wales that are renowned for their outstanding natural beauty and importance for wildlife
• Now is the time to stand up for nature and tell planners that the Welsh countryside and its threatened wildlife needs protecting
• RSPB Cymru is asking Welsh Government to celebrate nature, not destroy it
RSPB Cymru is urging the public to make their voices heard before it's too late, as the M4 motorway diversion threatens to cut through the heart of the Gwent Levels and irreversibly damage one of the county's most important natural spaces.
Wales is home to some of the most spectacular and significant natural habitats in the UK, and earlier this year the Welsh Government opened a public consultation on plans to drive a motorway through four areas that are uniquely important to wildlife in Wales.
The threat of the new motorway diversion south of Newport in Gwent has been hanging over this precious landscape for more than 20 years and for those 20 years, RSPB Cymru has been working hard to defend this historic landscape and the unique species that live there. However, the latest plans would see this work undone as a unique part of Wales would be sacrificed for a motorway.
It merely takes a few minutes to respond to the public consultation on the development of the M4 diversion, which threatens to cut through four Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) that are vital for protecting nature in Wales. Being chosen as a SSSI means an area is not only important to wildlife in Wales but also essential as part of the UK's valuable landscape.
Over the last few years, RSPB Cymru has been working closely with the Welsh Government to develop and secure important legislation which is meant to ensure that Wales has a better, healthier and greener country (note 2).
Arfon Williams, RSPB Cymru Countryside Manager, said: "You only have to look around to see that the Gwent Levels is something special to Wales. Sweeping the Severn Estuary coastline from Cardiff to the Severn Bridge and beyond, the Levels is rich in nature it is an irreplaceable patchwork of wildlife havens and landscapes.
"It is home to an astonishing array of wildlife including lapwings, otters, water voles, the great silver water beetle and the world's smallest flowering plant, Wolffia. All reasons we need to stand up and protect this part of our country before it is lost forever.
"Many of these species are in danger of disappearing from Wales and destroying their home by building a new road straight through it would have a devastating and irreversible effect. A diverted M4 motorway will create a lethal barrier of traffic that would be impossible for wildlife to cross, resulting in pollution seeping off the road surfaces into the surrounding waterways - on which much the Levels wildlife depends."
RSPB Cymru have called on the Welsh Government to consider more sustainable, solutions such as upgrading public transport through the proposed new South Wales Metro.
Katie-Jo Luxton, RSPB Cymru Director, says: "Our treasured wildlife is sadly undervalued, ignored and already undergoing severe declines. The wanton destruction of our natural heritage has to stop. These areas are vital for nature in Wales and RSPB Cymru is urging the public to stand up and protect them.
"This road proposal is a classic example of out-dated government thinking, which sees our environment as simply an inconvenience or a resource to be used and exploited for short term gain - rather than something that we should be celebrating as part of what makes Wales fantastic.
"The consultation is a chance for people in Wales, and anyone who cares about the Welsh countryside to send a clear message that building the M4 diversion would be devastating to nature and to the natural heritage of Wales. If the Welsh Government is allowed to push ahead with building a motorway across an area as important for wildlife as the Gwent Levels, then is anywhere in Wales safe? It also calls into question the Government's commitment to the Well-being of Future Generations Act (note 2) and its well-being goals including "to maintain and enhance a biodiverse natural environment with healthy functioning ecosystems".
It only takes a few minutes to respond to the public consultation and every response matters. RSPB Cymru is asking the public to make their voices heard and respond to the public consultation by 4 May deadline, by emailing the Welsh Government directly to urge them to drop this proposal.
Please visit rspb.org.uk/M4campaign to see how you can respond and ensure this beloved part of the country can thrive for years to come.