Redwood scales down road plans

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A HALT to environmentally damaging road schemes is to be announced by John Redwood, the Secretary of State for Wales, in a shift of policy which could point the way to changes in England.

Mr Redwood has told officials that he wants to define two or three strategic routes in Wales where road schemes would be given the go-ahead.

New schemes are to be limited to strategic routes, including the M4, the A55 and the A465 Heads of the Valleys road. But Mr Redwood has told officials that he intends to halt other large-scale road building which threatens to damage the environment.

Minor road schemes will be reconsidered to ensure that they are environmentally friendly, with adequate associated screening and landscaping. Mr Redwood is responding to growing public pressure against road schemes, which may have a disastrous impact on areas of outstanding beauty.

His move could put pressure on transport ministers in England. John MacGregor, the Secretary of State for Transport, signalled his own readiness to protect 'green lungs' in the capital when he cancelled the East London river crossing route to save Oxleas Wood in south-east London.

Mr Redwood took the lead by cancelling two road schemes for Fishguard and Chepstow, after local protests about the impact on the historic port of Fishguard. 'Building roads poses difficult dilemmas. Wales needs good transport links to foster prosperity, but Wales has a beautiful urban and rural heritage that needs protection.'

Plaid Cymru called for Mr Redwood to resign after he appointed David Rowe-Beddoe, alleged to have been involved in Tory Party fund-raising, as chairman of the Welsh Development Agency.