Leytonstone News

Council’s pollution eating plant wall covered in dead moss

The council has said it will ‘shortly’ remove the moss-walled ‘City Trees’ while it looks at ‘alternative plant species’ to replace the dead moss

By Marco Marcelline

The dead ‘CityTree’ at the intersection of Leytonstone High Road and Crownfield Road, Credit: LDRS

Two “permanent” urban greening installations that use moss plants to absorb air pollution are being removed by the council because the moss has died. 

The large moss-filled towers, called ‘CityTrees’, are both located in Leytonstone; one sits directly outside Leytonstone Station next to the A12, while the other is found at the intersection of Leytonstone High Road, Cann Hall Road and Crownfield Road.

The ‘CityTrees’ were designed by German startup Green City Solutions, and are powered by solar panels fitted on top. The installations also contain a water tank, an automatic irrigation system and plant sensors that are powered using solar panels and batteries. 

In official council documents the moss-walled infrastructure is described as having the ability to remove as much pollution as 275 trees.  At their unveiling in early 2020 the council described them as “permanent” structures. Now their future is being scrutinised.

Clyde Loakes, deputy leader and cabinet member for climate and air quality, said the council will “shortly be removing both City Trees” to its depot after experiencing “ongoing irrigation and planting maintenance challenges”. 

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The council did not specify what the irrigation or planting maintenance challenges were but said that it may identify “alternative plant species to fill out the City Trees” while “reviewing the future” of the two installations.

Cllr Loakes added: “We will carefully consider costs and sustainability to achieve a solution that means they have a role to play. We will publish a full update as soon as we have thoroughly investigated all our options.”

In a case study document on street pollution published in October 2020, the council described the ‘CityTrees’ as being located on “some of the most polluted areas and roads in the borough”, with the stand outside Leytonstone Station being positioned in an area with one of the highest nitrogen dioxide levels in Waltham Forest. 

Similar installations have cropped up in Berlin, Paris, and Oslo, and in London’s West End.

According to Green City Solutions, the installations have been under the complete control of Waltham Forest Council since they were rolled out in January 2020. Green City Solutions added that it is not in “direct communication” with the council about the trees.

Green City Solutions told the Echo: “The mentioned project is not under the purview of Green City Solutions, and thus we do not have influence on it. Therefore, we cannot provide a statement regarding the progress and the current status of the project.

Green City Solutions added: “In this case, we would endorse the establishment of a direct communication and business relationship between Waltham Forest and Green City Solutions to work towards a solution. We are always happy to assist!”

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