A HENLEY man has offered the side of his town centre home for use as a “living” wall to help combat air pollution.
Businessman Clive Hemsley, who lives at Longlands House in Hart Street, says the east-facing wall of his three-storey Georgian property could be covered entirely in plants that would ingest contaminants from exhaust fumes.
Eco Henley, a pressure group that is part of Henley in Transition, says green walls are needed in the town centre, where nitrogen dioxide levels in some streets are more than 50 per cent higher than Air Quality England’s target limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.
The gas is emitted by car exhausts along with a substance called fine particulate matter, a microscopic sooty dust. Both cause damage to the heart and lungs when inhaled.
Deciduous broad-leafed plants and creepers like ivy, which are in leaf all year round, can suck up large quantities of particulates. They are already being used in living walls in larger towns and cities.
Val and Jim Stoner, of Wyndale Close, Henley, who are members of Henley in Transition, asked Mr Hemsley if he would be prepared to offer his wall and he said yes. The living wall unit would cover the entire side of the building and would have its own water supply and a computer system to automatically draw water when needed and could also be illuminated by LED lighting.
It would be an “active” living wall, meaning it would have a vacuum pump system to suck polluted air towards it. This is said to be 50 times more efficient than a “passive” living wall with no pump.
It could cost up to £15,000, which it is hoped would be covered by sponsorship.
Eco Henley believes two other living walls of a similar size are needed, one at the crossroads of Duke Street, Friday Street, Reading Road and Greys Road, which is a pollution hot spot.
If suitable locations can’t be found, businesses could be asked to have smaller windowboxes containing air-cleaning plants. Mr Hemsley, who has lived at Longlands House for 20 years, said: “It’s a great idea because people in Henley are looking for a solution to the air pollution problem.
“It’s only at a very early stage for now. We’ve just agreed it in principle and they’re going to show me some models of living walls. They would need to plant more than one but this is certainly a good site.
“Living walls are only part of the answer, though. I don’t think we’re going to make any serious progress until we ban heavy goods vehicles from the town centre. It’s fine if they’re delivering but we need to stop those lorries which are just taking a shortcut.
“Val is a great believer in clean air and I’m totally behind her on that. I think this is a great idea and it has to be good for the town.”
Mrs Stoner said: “Longlands House is a fantastic location as the crossroads near Henley Bridge is one of the most polluted areas in the town centre.
“Clive has been very kind and we are truly grateful for his generosity and concern for residents’ health. A living wall would be decorative and make the town look even more beautiful for people entering from that direction. It would look incredible lit up at night.”
Last summer a £3,000 living wall was installed at the Leichlingen pavilion in Mill Meadows as part of Henley’s entry in Britain in Bloom.