M4 re­lief road plans sub­mis­sion ques­tioned

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

FU­TURE Gen­er­a­tions Com­mis­sioner So­phie Howe has ac­cused the Welsh Gov­ern­ment of mis­in­ter­pret­ing its own law in seek­ing to per­suade a plan­ning in­spec­tor to back plans for a £1bn M4 re­lief road.

In a sub­mis­sion to the on­go­ing pub­lic inquiry into the Welsh Gov­ern­ment’s pro­posal to build a new sec­tion of the M4 by­pass­ing the no­to­ri­ous bot­tle­neck of the Bryn­glas Tun­nels, Ms Howe takes is­sue with ar­gu­ments put by the Gov­ern­ment to the in­spec­tor.

Busi­ness groups like the CBI ar­gue that a re­lief road is needed to make ac­cess to South Wales eas­ier. They sup­port the Welsh Gov­ern­ment’s pre­ferred “black route” which would go across New­port docks and through the sen­si­tive land­scape of the Gwent Wet­lands.

Ms Howe’s role as com­mis­sioner was cre­ated in the wake of the Well-be­ing of Fu­ture Gen­er­a­tions Act, which places a legal obli­ga­tion on pub­lic bod­ies to take into ac­count the im­pact of all strate­gic de­ci­sions on fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

The M4 pub­lic inquiry is due to re­sume next week, and she has asked for per­mis­sion to have an ad­di­tional sub­mis­sion con­sid­ered.

In it she as­serts that the Welsh Gov­ern­ment has mis­in­ter­preted the Act dur­ing its pre­sen­ta­tion of the case for a re­lief road in ear­lier hear­ings. She states: “The mis­ap­pli­ca­tion of the du­ties un­der the Well-be­ing of Fu­ture Gen­er­a­tions (Wales) Act 2015 in this case might set a wrong prece­dent which I am keen to avoid. The leg­is­la­tion pro­vides a new frame­work for de­ci­sion mak­ing in Wales, and re­quires a dra­matic shift in the way we take de­ci­sions in Wales; my role is to en­sure that these new ways of work­ing and mak­ing de­ci­sions are adopted by those or­gan­i­sa­tions cov­ered by the Act.”

Ms Howe goes on to say that of­fi­cials and wit­nesses at the inquiry who have claimed to ap­ply “sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment” prin­ci­ples have not done so in ac­cor­dance with the re­quire­ments of the Act. The Act ex­pects pol­icy-mak­ers to con­sider the im­pli­ca­tions of their de­ci­sions on the eco­nomic, so­cial, en­vi­ron­men­tal and cul­tural well-be­ing of Wales – known as the four pil­lars of well-be­ing.

Ms Howe states: “The new Act re­quires pub­lic bod­ies to take holis­tic de­ci­sions and to cease mak­ing de­ci­sions which harm crit­i­cal el­e­ments of well-be­ing, in­clud­ing so­cial eco­nomic en­vi­ron­men­tal and cul­tural el­e­ments... I would ex­pect that de­ci­sions only con­tribut­ing to one or two pil­lars of well­be­ing to be dis­re­garded and those that have mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits across each of the el­e­ments of well-be­ing to be se­lected. The bal­anc­ing in this rev­o­lu­tion­ary Act means giv­ing as equal as pos­si­ble weight to each el­e­ment and not al­low­ing one to tip the scale.”

The inquiry re­sumes on Tues­day.

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