MADRID has given its backing to a motorway that will cut through one of the region’s areas of outstanding beauty.

Almost ten kilometres of the A4 Andalucía-Cuidad Real road will pass through the protected Despeñaperros Natural Park in Jaén when it opens in 2009.

Explaining the decision to green light construction of the 200-million-euro motorway, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Environment said the relevant environmental impact studies had been carried out.

He added work on the six-lane road will respect the breeding periods of the park’s wildlife, which includes the Iberian wolf.

Supporters of the new road claim it will cut down on the amount of accidents at the Despeñaperros pass.

Since 2000, there have been 300 accidents on the existing road, resulting in the loss of 50 lives.

Critics claim the protected park will be irreversibly damaged.

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