Understanding environmental impact is crucial to sustainability and community quality of life.

M4 Relief Road: CALM Letter to First Minister

Robert Hepworth and Catherine Linstrum, the co-chairs of CALM, have written to Mark Drakeford, the First Minister, following his recent decision on the proposed M4 Relief Road. The letter congratulates the First Minister on his decision to reject the planned road and to set up a commission to investigate alternative solutions to congestion on the M4 in South Wales.

M4 Relief Road: CALM Press Release

CALM are "delighted" with Mark Drakeford's decision not to build the M4 relief road and published a press release on the 4th of June.

M4 Relief Road: Mark Drakeford decides against building new road

The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, has announced that the Welsh Government will not build the M4 Relief Road. The Welsh Government has decided that they cannot afford the cost of building the planned road and that the environmental impact would be such that the road should not be built.

M4 Relief Road: Still time to make your voice heard

The decision on the M4 Relief Road is expected during the first week of June. Time remains to make your voice heard and to persuade the politicians not to approve plans for a new road. The CALM website has a page of ideas and information including how contact your AM or MP, a petition to sign, and how to tweet to the Welsh Government. Find a few moments to add your voice to those of so many others to oppose the expensive and unnecessary M4 Relief Road.

M4 Relief Road: Decision expected in early June

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that he will make a decision on the M4 in the first week of June 2019. He said the decision was "inherently controversial" and, as a result, any decision was "vulnerable to legal challenge". "The legal documentation to support that decision has to be in the best possible order", he said. "That will take another small number of weeks, but I am confident I will be in a position to make that decision in the first week after the Whitsun break, and it will be announced here on the floor of the National Assembly."

South Sebastopol Update

Phase 1 of the South Sebastopol development is completed and the new residents have moved in. The development has caused destruction of the glow worm site, against planning conditions which were put in place to protect it. This was the only known site in the whole of Torfaen where glow worms could be seen. Despite repeated requests, Torfaen FoE is still awaiting details of what measures have been taken against Barretts (the developers) for breach of planning conditions, which were added following the site visit by the inspector during the public inquiry in 2013. Torfaen FoE succeeded in gaining protection of this area after Carole Jacob was given permission to show the Inspector the glow worm site.

Phase 2 of development, including a new Bevans Lane Bridge, is nearing completion with nearby houses fronting the tow path, much to the dismay of canal lovers.

In April 2019, Torfaen County Borough Council approved detail plans for Phase 3, the village core, which includes 143 homes, of which 126 will be two storey , while 6 one bedroom and 2 bedroom apartments are also planned. Three buildings will have retail units with apartments above them. A total of 20 affordable homes, a village green area with a play area and car park are also included in the plan. Torfaen FoE continues to be active in examining plans, walking sites and expressing comments, as well as attending and sometimes speaking at planning committee.

Climate Emergency Declared in Wales

At the end of April the Welsh Government declared a "Climate Emergency" in Wales. Two days later the Welsh Assembly voted to support the declaration. The decisions follow recent increases in climate change protests around the world and in the UK. Assembly Members have warned the Welsh Government that they must act rather than simply rebranding already announced policies. Mark Drakeford, the First Minister, has said that he will announce the decision on the proposed M4 Relief Road in June, which will be an indication of just how seriously the Welsh Government takes the climate emergency.

M4 Relief Road: Please Lobby Your AM

Time is running out to say, "No New M4". Please lobby your Assembly Member to support the campaign against the M4 Relief Road. In this time of climate crisis we need to stop road building and start thinking of sustainable transport solutions that work for everyone.

Time really is running out. First minister, Mark Drakeford, is likely to make a decision on the M4 Relief Road some time soon after the Newport West by-election on Thursday 4 April 2019.

The First Minister is thought to be sceptical of the road, but the business lobby in favour of the road is gaining in strength. Please email or write to your AM as soon as possible to express your opposition to the proposed M4 Relief Road. Friends of the Earth Cymru have created a briefing paper to inspire you, and template letter to save you time.

Listening to speeches at a rally against the proposed M4 Relief Road outside the Senedd in December 2018.
Photograph Copyright © 2018 Friends of the Earth Cymru, All Rights reserved

M4 Relief Road: Petition Handed in to the Welsh Assembly

A petition against the proposed M4 Relief Road was submitted to the Welsh Assembly in late October. In total 12,270 people signed the petiton. The petition remains available for those who would like to add their signature.

In September, the South Wales Chamber of Commerce submitted a petition in support of the road to the Assembly, which had 1,482 signatures.

M4 Relief Road: Show Your Opposition

Here are two opportunities to show your opposition to the proposed M4 Relief Road. The Wildlife Trusts have an e-action which enables you to email Carwyn Jones. Carwyn Jones will be making a decision on the Relief Road before leaves office, so do complete the e-action as soon as possible. There is also a petition you can sign which will be submitted to the Welsh Parliament very shortly.

Tir Pentwys Planning Inquiry

Peakman Limited's application to extract secondary aggregates from Tir Pentwys was rejected by Torfaen County Borough Council's Planning Committee in April 2017. An appeal will be heard by a Planning Inquiry which is scheduled to start on the 15th of January 2019.

There is considerable opposition to the appeal within local communities threatened by the disruption of aggregate extraction and up to 100 lorry movements a day for twenty years. The are also significant concerns about the loss of the Tir Pentwys site as a local amenity, and the impact on biodiversity as the species that have taken up residence since the site was last worked are displaced by renewed industrial activity. Further details and background.

IPCC Report and the M4 Relief Road

On Monday the 8th of October 2018 the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report outlining the dramatic actions required to mitigate some of the worst outcomes of climate change. The IPCC have called for a rapid reduction in carbon emissions in the short term — a cut of 45% (from 2010 levels) by 2030 — in an attempt to limit the anticipated effects of climate change.

In Wales, as highlighted by Rob Hepworth, Chair of the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway (CALM) the Government is proposing to build the M4 Relief Road, which they claim will be carbon neutral in 2070. Pushing forward with development of the M4 Relief at this point would be irresponsible to say the least. The benefits outlined only a few weeks ago by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales are so marginal and confined to a limited number of car drivers that the proposed M4 Relief Road is a poor investment. It is also clear that it would be a damaging and dangerous investment too.

Today, the 9th of October, the Appeal Court in the Netherlands overturned Government plans to drop climate change legislation because of the urgent need to act against the threat made clear in the IPCC report. In Wales you can show your opposition to the proposed M4 Relief Road and support for a more sustainable future by signing the petition at 38 degrees and writing to your Assembly Member.

More information about CALM can be found on their website. CALM are also active on Twitter and Facebook.

Transport Fit for Future Generations

Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, published a report entitled "Transport Fit for Future Generations" on the 12th of September 2018. The report, coauthored with the Centre for Transport and Society, the University of the West of England, Sustrans and the New Economics Foundation, outlines a sustainable future for transport in Wales. The proposal includes the long-awaited South Wales Metro, and provides an inclusive and effective solution for transport in South Wales in contrast to the proposed M4 Relief Road, which would bring only very limited benefits to car owners and drivers. The costs of each scheme is similar.

In a press release, Rob Hepworth, Chair of Campaign Against the Levels Motorway (CALM), states "We welcome today’s report by the Commissioner. It gives the most convincing overall case ever produced against a motorway bypass severing the Gwent Levels. CALM asks every Welsh citizen to read it with an open mind – then decide if you want your taxes used to build it instead of cheaper and healthier alternatives. Surely we need a full Metro system and new infrastructure for cyclists and walkers."

He concludes "The question is no longer about the feasibility of the Black Route. It is the wrong choice. CALM calls on the Wales Government to face up to that reality and embrace new solutions for the South Wales transport corridor. An urgent task for the next First Minister is to choose a better plan in line with the Commissioner’s report."

Blaenau Gwent & Torfaen Local Nature Partnership Field Meeting

On the 29th of June Carole Jacob and Juliet Barnes attended the on the Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen Local Nature Partnership field meeting day. We had an instructive and enjoyable day. We found healthy populations of smooth newts and managed to see a female dark giant horsefly (Tabanus sudeticus); the largest horsefly in Britain and the heaviest fly in Europe. Fortunately, they don’t like human blood.

Juliet Barnes (4th from right) and Carole Jacob (2nd from right) on the Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen Local Nature Partnership Field Meeting Day. 

Blaenavon World Heritage Day

Carole Jacob, Juliet Barnes and Corinne Jones campaigned against the proposed M4 Relief Road (across the environmentally sensitive Gwent Levels) and for looking after bees, at Blaenavon's World Heritage Day on June 30th 2018.



Bee Campaigning at Go Wild

We attended the Go Wild event at Parc Bryn Bach, Tredegar on June 9th, Carole buzzed around explaining to people about protecting the bees.



WCVA Awards 2018

Carole Jacob, Torfaen Friends of the Earth's co-ordinator, was awarded a Highly Commended certificate by Wales Council for Voluntary Action recently. She was nominated by Sadie Ezard & Corinne Jones for the tremendous amount and quality of work she has done, for many years, for the environment.

Air Quality Investigation Reveals Concerning Levels of Pollution

An investigation by Torfaen Friends of the Earth into air pollution in Cwmbrân, Pontnewydd and Sebastopol has revealed levels of air pollution which cause some concern. We monitored levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) at five places in Torfaen and found concentrations of NO2 close to legal limits. Read more …

Festival of Trees

Torfaen Friends of the Earth had a terrific entry in the tree festival at St Hilda's Church in Griffithstown in December. We have some fantastic bees, a hive and a honeycomb, all made by some of our talented members. Many thanks to Corinne, Sadie, Chris, Jane and Juliet.


A Month of Action Against Fracking

Local residents in Lancashire have undertaken a month of activism against fracking supported by by campaigning group Reclaim the Power. The Rolling Resistance took place in July and demonstrated (pardon the pun) how necessary and effective resistance to UK government policy on fracking is.

Campaign for Clean Air

We had a stall at Pontypool's Party in the Park promoting Friends of the Earth's campaign for clean air. In many areas of the UK, including Torfaen, levels of air pollution exceed those agreed internationally and have health implications for all.

Suzi and Cherry from Torfaen Friends of the Earth campaigning for clean air at Pontypool's Party in the Park in mid July.

M4 Relief Road Public Inquiry

The public inquiry into the planned M4 Relief Road started at the Lysaghts Institute in Newport on Tuesday the 28th of February. We joined representatives of other environmental and conservation organisations to demonstrate our continuing opposition to the planned road because it is an expensive, wasteful and unsustainable attempt to solve a poorly defined problem.

Carole Jacob and Vic Warren at the start of the public inquiry into the planned M4 Relief Road.

Further details and photographs

Festival of Trees

Torfaen Friends of the Earth's entry in the Festival of Trees event at St Hilda's Church Griffithstown this year had a global warming theme, right down to polar bears on shrinking ice floes.


Vote to Leave European Union Challenges Environmental Campaigners

Leaving the European Union will provide environmental campaigners with challenges and opportunities. Many of our environmental laws are based on EU treaties and will need to be replaced. As David Levy of Marinet outlines in a blog article, the challenge to environmental campaigners is to take advantage of the opportunity to play an active role in shaping the new legislation to ensure that commercial interests are not allowed to roll back established environmental protections.

Cwmbrân Big Event

Torfaen Friends of the Earth had a stall at Cwmbrân Big Event, held on Saturday the 11th of June at Cwmbrân Boating Lake, an annual event organised by Torfaen County Borough Council.

We enjoyed Cwmbrân Big Event as usual. We spent the day talking with visitors and giving out information about Friends of the Earth's bee campaign and in support of the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union.

Daisy-Mae, Abbie, Katie and Lucy publicising Friends
                    of the Earth's Bee Cause campaign at Cwmbran Big Event

Daisy-Mae, Abbie, Katie & Lucy publicising Friends of the Earth's Bee Cause campaign to ban pesticides that harm bees and to encourage people to grow more bee-friendly plants.

Rosemary Fisher and Carole Jacob handing out copies of Friends of the Earth's Position Statement on voting to remain in the European Union

Rosemary Fisher and Carole Jacob handing out copies of Friends of the Earth's Position Statement on voting to remain in the European Union.

Wild Forest Products in Europe

StarTree have organised an international conference on Wild Forest Products in Europe on 13–14 October 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. The two-day conference includes invited keynote talks, sessions with contributed oral presentations, a poster exhibit, and a panel discussion with decision makers and stakeholder representatives. More information at: http://star-tree.eu/final-conference-2016

‘Save the planet, it's the only one with chocolate’

Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds and Torfaen FoE members take tea as part of Stop Climate Chaos Cymru's campaign for the COP21 talks in Paris

Torfaen's MP Nick Thomas-Symonds joined some Torfaen Friends of the Earth members for tea and chocolate cake as part of the Stop Climate Chaos Cymru campaign in the run up to the climate change talks in Paris, at Raspberry Tearooms, Llanyrafon Manor Cwmbrân.

Torfaen Council Votes NO to Fracking and Becomes Wales' Newest Frack Free Area!

Yes, you read that correctly. On the 20th of October 2015 Torfaen County Borough Council voted against fracking. This follows a recent campaign by Torfaen Friends of the Earth to stop fracking in their area, which saw hundreds of people support a petition calling for the controversial process of fracking not to be allowed in the county.

We want to say a huge well done to all our amazing local campaigners and to everyone who takes the time to sign these petitions! The fight to get all local authorities in Wales to become frack free is still underway.


At a later meeting Torfaen County Borough Council withdrew their previous decision to declare the area frack free on the advice of its Chief Planning Officer. The council, however, remains opposed to fracking in Torfaen has written to the Welsh Government in support of its cautionary position.

Bees Petition

TFoE bee information stall at B&Q staffed by Carole Jacob and Suzi McIntyre

Members of Torfaen Friends of the Earth spent 4 hours on Saturday the 19th of September at the B&Q store in Cwmbrân collecting signatures to petition MPs to support the current ban on neonicotinoid pesticides and extend it to all crops.

Neonicotinoids are neuro-active substances used as insecticides, and their use has been linked to reductions in bee populations. Bees perform a vital role in the pollination of many crops and wild plants.

Further information and photographs.

South Sebastopol: Planning Application

Taylor Wimpey South Wales and Barratt Homes have submitted a planning application for part of the first phase of work on the South Sebastopol site. The application concerns landscaping, layout, roads and infrastructure for 210 dwellings.

Details of Planning Application 15/P/00271 are available and the deadline for comments is the 24th of June 2015.

South Sebastopol Environmental Steering Group

The first meeting of the South Sebastopol Environmental Steering Group, which involves the developers of South Sebastopol, the council members and officers, Gwent Wildlife Trust, The Canal and Rivers Trust and Torfaen Friends of the Earth, has been held. A Management Plan has been produced and currently being scrutinized by the ESG before implementation. The ESG will act in perpetuity and therefore, this is a long term commitment for Torfaen Friends of the Earth.

Varteg Hill Opencast Mine

Friends of the Earth Cymru have issued a press release highlighting their representation to Torfaen Country Borough Council opposing Glamorgan Power's proposal for an opencast coalmine at Varteg Hill. Written by Gareth Clubb, Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, the representation draws attention to the misrepresentation of environmental policies and law in the proposal to mine coal, as well as the irrationality of mining fossil fuels in the the light of climate change.

Another opencast coalmine is proposed by Miller Argent in the Rhymney Valley, in Caerphilly County, and Friends of the Earth Cymru have called on the Welsh Government to outlaw opencast mining.


Torfaen Friends of the Earth campaign locally on issues of local and global significance.

Current campaign areas include:

Bee Friendly Community Garden

Torfaen Friends of the Earth are creating a bee friendly community garden on neglected land next to 1 Railway Terrace, Sebastopol, Pontypool NP4 5EJ co-ordinated by Torfaen's countryside officer, Gareth Phillips, with Keep Wales Tidy on board too.

Work took place on the site on Thursday the 28th and Friday the 29th of August 2014. On the Thursday Torfaen Countryside Rangers in partnership with Keep Wales Tidy cleared the overgrown vegetation on the site in order to make it accessible. On the Friday volunteers from the local community helped clear waste from the site. Read an account of the two days spent clearing the site.

There is still work to be done clearing the site. Contact us if you would like to be involved.

BEEing Friendly at Cwmbrân Big Event

Carole and Corinne at Cwmbran Big Event June 2014

Carole & Corinne campaigning for bees at Cwmbrân Big Event, June 2014. Photograph by Adrian Reilly.

BEEing Friendly at Llantarnam Abbey

Volunteers sewing wild flower seed in a fieldTorfaen Friends of the Earth joined forces with Torfaen Biodiversity Partnership, Torfaen County Borough Council, Ancient Cwmbrân Society, Gwent Wildlife Trust, The Floodplain Meadows Partnership and Natural Resources Wales to seed a new flower meadow in the grounds of the beautiful Llantarnam Abbey with the kind permission of the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy. … Read more