An environmental group has called on the Welsh Government's new climate minister to reject a planning application for a solar power station for a 150-hectare site on the Gwent Levels wetlands.

In a letter to Welsh minister Julie James, the Friends of the Gwent Levels group said it "seemed wrong" to to build on "fragile ecosystems" when there were brownfield sites available.

The group's co-chairs, Dr Catherine Linstrum and Dr Diana Callaghan, said their position as environmentalists meant they were fully supportive of Wales’ ambitions for renewable energy, but opposed to developments which compromised landscape and nature.

“Tackling climate change cannot be at the expense of all other considerations," they wrote in their letter to the new minister for climate change.

The Gwent Levels, stretching along the South East Wales coastline from Cardiff to Chepstow, is prized for its biodiversity and is home to conservation areas and SSSIs (sites of special scientific interest).

Its protection was one of the key arguments raised by opponents to the M4 relief road project, which would have involved the building of a new stretch of motorway, south of Newport, cutting through part of the wetlands.

The project was scrapped by Mark Drakeford in 2019 over environmental concerns and rising estimated costs.


Since the recent Senedd election, a reshuffle in the government has brought several other ministerial responsibilities together under a new climate change brief, with Mr Drakeford saying the environment would "be a consideration in all we do".

Dr Linstrum and Dr Callaghan said such attitudes suggested the government should reconsider the solar power station plans for the wetlands.

"If the environment is indeed at the heart of Welsh Government decision-making, rather than the afterthought which it might have been historically and which it continues to be in Westminster, then one of the most richly biodiverse regions of Wales must be protected from any development that threatens this biodiversity," they wrote in their letter to Ms James.

They added: "As a minister, you are uniquely placed to be able to shape the way forward for Wales, its landscape and nature, as it tackles the twin climate and biodiversity crises.

“Decisions like this - the siting of major renewables - is a test for Wales’ commitment to give a lead to the rest of the UK and to show that we put the restoration of nature at the heart of the climate change emergency.”