Friday, 20 July 2018

Bloom group pledges to tackle air pollution

HENLEY in Bloom has vowed to help tackle the town’s air pollution problem.

HENLEY in Bloom has vowed to help tackle the town’s air pollution problem.

The group is going to try to find sponsors for “living walls” and to increase awareness of the issue of air quality.

It will work with Eco Henley, a pressure group that is part of Henley in Transition.

The level of nitrogen dioxide in some streets in Henley is 50 per cent higher than Air Quality England’s target limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

Town councillor Kellie Hinton, who chairs in Henley in Bloom, said: “This is something that affects children and we need to look at what we can do to make it better.

“We need to investigate costs, see what other people say and get feedback on potential sponsorship as well as trying to put money in the budget from the town council.”

She was speaking after the group was given a presentation by Richard Francis, founder of environmental business Sensescape.

He wants to target pollution hot spots in the town with using walls of broad-leafed plants such as ivy which can ingest particulates that are produced by petrol and diesel engines.

Mr Francis said: “Worldwide, urban air pollution went up eight per cent between 2008 and 2013. People say that it’s China and India but it’s not just there, it is in towns like Henley. It affects everybody.”

He identified three particulate hot spots — Henley Bridge, the junction of Friday Street and Duke Street and the town centre crossroads.

Mr Francis said: “There was an air quality management survey done a few months ago which identified a number of places as really bad, often where traffic sits.”

Bloom committee member Tuc Ahmed asked Mr Francis if he had results from before and after the installation of a wall by his company.

“If you’re not measuring then how do you know if it makes a difference?” he said. Mr Francis replied: “In an ideal world you measure it, put the vegetation in then measure again after six months or a year.

“We know from studies in the US that this makes an enormous difference.”

David Dickie, of St Katherine’s Road, Henley, who has been measuring particulates around the town, said: “I’m just someone walking the streets with a device they use to measure levels in factories in Germany, where if it gets too high they get out.

“We need to look after the children of Henley and do projects with them. I have had comments from people that the use of inhalers has gone up tenfold in the last 10 years.”

Mr Francis welcomed an offer by businessman Clive Hemsley to have a living wall on the side on his house in Hart Street, as reported in last week’s Henley Standard.

He said: “It’s great you have donated your wall to do it but I need to check it is where the pollution is.

“If it is not sucking in pollution at that point then we need to look at putting something there but get on with the blackspots.” He warned against using silver birch trees, which has been suggested by committee member Caroline Langler.

“They are quite intrusive and can grow quite high,” said Mr Francis. “They can suck moisture out of really old buildings and create all manner of problems.”

He has previously suggested installing a 2m high wall of plants in Market Place.

He says that if the pollution problem isn’t tackled it could affect Henley’s visitor numbers and put people off living in the town.

Councillor Hinton said: “We are conscious of this problem and want to do something about it but we are not responsible for it — that is the county council, district council and the Government.

“We can’t buy £5,000 worth of equipment as we don’t have a huge amount of money but we can go out and seek sponsorship using our contacts.”

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email

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