NO DECISION will be made on the M4 relief road until after the new first minister is in place - and likely until next year - it has been conformed.

Carwyn Jones had previously repeatedly said he would decide whether or not to give the scheme, currently estimated to cost around £1.7 billion, the green light before he leaves office.

But Mr Jones, who will step down next Tuesday, December 11, has reportedly not yet seen the report of the public inquiry into the scheme along with the Welsh Government's official legal advice.

Although AMs were due to debate and vote on the scheme this week, now it has been been announced a decision and vote in the Assembly has been delayed - meaning it will not take place until the new first minister is elected. And with the Assembly due to break up for winter recess next week, a decision will likely not be taken until 2019.

Speaking in the Senedd earlier today, Tuesday, leader of the house Julie James said: "It is absolutely paramount that the legal advice received at the same time as the local inquiry is what any first minister making that decision takes into account.

"That advice is not ready.

"It is important that the advice is prepared correctly.

"Speed is not of the essence, accuracy is of the essence.

"When that advice has been prepared, the first minister will be able to take that preliminary decision on the traffic orders and the acquisition of land orders, and then, after that, we will be able to look at the affordability issues and it will be at that point that a vote can take place in this place.

"This is not now going to happen under this particular administration, but I said, only last week, that I would be recommending to any successor of mine that that commitment should be honoured, and I've been assured by all three candidates that it will be."

The new leader of Welsh Labour will be announced on Thursday, December 6, and will take up position as first minister - subject to a vote in the Assembly - on Wednesday, December 12.

Meanwhile, hundreds of environmental campaigners gathered outside the Senedd to protest against the plan earlier today.

Representatives of groups including the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway, or CALM, Friends of the Earth Cymru and the Gwent Wildlife Trust, as well as politicians opposed to the plan including Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price and Llanelli AM Lee Waters, spoke at the rally.

Key to concerns was the impact on the route on the protected Gwent Levels.

St Brides and Wentlooge resident Ann Picton, who has long campaigned against the plan, also spoke at the rally, saying: "The Gwent Levels is a site of national and international importance but it seems to be unrecognised as a jewel in Newport, Monmouthshire and Wales' crown."

She added: "I ask the Welsh Government to do what we think is their role - to preserve, protect and cherish (the Levels) and build a Wales we can be proud of".

And Ian Rappel of the Gwent Wildlife Trust called the plan "insane" and said there is "no need" for the new road.

"The Welsh Government has introduced the most progressive environmental legislation in the world," he said. "The first test case is the black route."

Labour AM Mr Waters, who has been a vocal opponent to the plan, despite it being presented by his own party, saying he was concerned it would conflict with the Welsh Government's own aim to cut carbon emissions.

"There is a problem with congestion at Newport, but if we build this project there will still be congestion," he said.

And Mr Price said: "There are certain decision that we take in Parliament that are defining. They define what country we want to be.

"We don't want a Wales that recreates the problems of the past. We want a new kind of Wales."

Meanwhile, deputy leader of the Green Party Amelia Womack, who is from Newport, said the road was based in "a political vision of the 1960s" and Robert Hepworth from Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales said it would signal "the death knell of the Gwent Levels".