PROPOSALS to transform the exterior of the BT Telephone Exchange in Newbury into a green oasis of plants and shrubbery have been dealt a blow with the telecoms giant saying the suggestion would “not be its preferred option”.
In the hope of ridding the Newbury skyline of the tower’s dull, grey, concrete façade, town councillor Martha Vickers had asked BT to consider covering the carbuncle in a living wall during its next phase of work on the Bear Lane building, scheduled for 2018/19.
However, this week a spokesman for BT said: “BT regularly reviews the condition of its property portfolio in the UK, including Newbury Telephone Exchange in Bear Lane, and any external decoration in the future.
“The living wall on a concrete structure such as the Newbury Telephone Exchange would possibly accelerate any deterioration and is not a preferred option.”
The self-sufficient vertical gardens are attached to the exterior of a building via a support fastened to the wall itself.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News last week, Mrs Vickers said: “It’s such a visible building in the middle of Newbury. Wherever you go, there in the middle of the skyline is that building.”
Mrs Vickers added that the living wall would help to improve air quality at the busy Sainsbury’s roundabout.
The Liberal Democrat councillor said, ideally, the six-storey eyesore would be torn down and the site redeveloped, but as that is not currently an option, the next best solution would be to improve its appearance.
Demolition of the tower is not possible as it is host to a vast amount of telecommunications cabling and technology, which would prove costly to relocate.
However, after featuring in Newbury Weekly News last week, it is clear that many people want some form of action taken over the building, with the story reaching tens of thousands of people on social media and more than 130 people commenting on the NewburyToday Facebook page.
Simon Pembroke wrote on Facebook: “Plant it up. Enough traffic fumes in Newbury. Oxygen is better.”
Liz Oakham commented: “Living walls with flowers. At least make it look pretty and help the local bee population.”
Trina Schofield also agreed with the living wall suggestion, commenting: “I am so pleased to see this raised – I have often thought about attending a Newbury BID meeting to suggest a change. That building really spoils the run through Newbury and a main unavoidable entrance into town.”
Karen Greenhalgh wrote: “My vote is for murals. I live in Moscow now and there are a lot of high-rise buildings here. Many are decorated with murals.”
Denise Brabon simply said: “It’s awful, anything would be better.”