Friends of the Earth lodges legal challenge to the decision to build a road through the Gwent Levels

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Environmental group Friends of the Earth has launched a legal challenge against the £1bn extension to the M4, which received planning permission this week.

The scheme will entail constructing a diversion to the motorway route as it enters Wales, taking it around Newport.

But the route, approved by the Welsh economy minister Edwina Hart this week, goes through the Gwent Levels wetlands, a protected wildlife site.

Now Friends of the Earth have launched a judicial review to Hart’s decision to approve the route.

Friends of the Earth Cymru director Gareth Clubb said the “unnecessary and unaffordable” road project would cause “massive damage to important and protected wildlife”.

He added: “There are better transport options the Welsh government has not properly considered. We’re now asking a judge to decide whether the government is breaking the law.

“People from all walks of life have joined us in supporting alternatives, from business groups to political parties.

“Whether it’s because of the huge expense, the better transport alternatives, or the environmental damage, many thousands of people in Wales are against this unnecessary and unaffordable road.”

Ian Rappel, cheif executive of Gwent Wildlife Trust (GWT), said he was “in favour” of the challenge because it was “absolutely essential that all environmentally sustainable options are fully considered in the face of transport issues”.

He added: “This is even more important when irreversible damage may occur on sensitive areas such as the Gwent Levels, which is a greatly valued landscape and complex ecosystem.”