THE grey, brutalist façade of the BT Telephone Exchange tower – which dominates Newbury’s skyline – could be turned into an oasis of lush greenery if the idea of one town councillor is accepted.
Martha Vickers (Lib Dem, Northcroft) has suggested to BT that the six-storey “eyesore” should be clad in a living wall.
Mrs Vickers said “greening” the outside of the building would not only greatly improve the appearance of the tower, but also help improve air quality at the Sainsbury's roundabout.
BT has said it will consider the option when planning the next phase of works on the Bear Lane building, scheduled for 2018/19.
“It’s such a visible building in the middle of Newbury,” said Mrs Vickers.
“Wherever you go, there in the middle of the skyline is that building.
“So these green walls can improve the look of it but also you help with pollution. Greens and trees soak up CO2 so you’re actually cleaning up the atmosphere as well.
“And so, rather than see a blot on the landscape, you see it as a benefit to Newbury.”
Living walls, or green walls, are self-sufficient vertical gardens that are attached to the exterior of a building via a structural support, which is fastened to the wall itself.
The plants receive water and nutrients from within the vertical support instead of from the ground.
The cost of such a project is not known, however a 2.45x47m green wall recently completed at the Nova Food restaurant complex in London cost a reported £100,000.
Both West Berkshire Council’s Newbury Vision 2026 and Newbury Town Council’s Town Design Statement highlight the negative impact of the building on the town’s landscape.
However, the building cannot currently be torn down as it is host to a vast amount of telecommunications technology, which would prove costly to relocate, and so, for the time being at least, the only option is to improve the building’s external appearance.
Chairman of Newbury Town Council’s planning and highways committee Anthony Pick said he would welcome the idea, although ultimately the council would like to see the area completely redeveloped.
“It’s West Berkshire’s principal eyesore,” he said. “However, anything like this could only be temporary because at some point the whole area has to be redeveloped.”