The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan unveiled the 400 ft ‘green wall’ – the ‘Chiswick Oasis’ – at St Mary’s Primary School on Saturday. The wall and a number of other measures are designed to tackle air pollution from the A4 dual carriageway the other side of the playground wall.
In 2017 it was revealed that the St Mary’s R C Primary School was among the 50 most polluted schools in London because of its proximity to the the 6-lanes A4 with an average flow of around 100,000 vehicles a day. Last year the headteacher had been forced to reduce outdoor playtime to protect children’s lungs. In September 2018 a parent from the School, Andrea Carnevali, worried that his six year old son and other children were exposed to some of the most toxic air in Europe, started the ‘Chiswick Oasis’ project, with the aim to create cleaner air in the school.
The Chiswick Oasis Project received an overwhelming amount of media attention, winning celebrity support from the likes of Jeremy Paxman and Claudia Winkleman and David Dimbleby. Emma Thompson described the project as ‘fantastic’ and added ‘we need government behind this as well’. The initiative received £32,000 in funding from the London Mayor’s ‘Crowdfund for London’ programme as well as other donations from public, local communities, small and large businesses alike eventually raising around £100,000.
The event on Saturday was attended by hundreds of people: parents, local residents, as well as the Mayor of Hounslow, the Leader of the Council, local MP Ruth Cadbury and several other Chiswick councillors, including Cllr Ron Moshiso, whose idea it had been to apply for the funding and who has been involved in the programme every step of the way, helping Andrea navigate local authority funding streams and make sure the project had all party support.
Photographs below: the Chiswick Oasis, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and organiser Andrea Carnevali
Despite the temperature well above 30 degrees, the mayor stayed for more than two hours talking to people and watching the celebrations, with performances from children, live music, games, food and drinks, before declaring the 126 meter wall open. “He seemed genuinely interested in the project” said Andrea.
The green wall is the largest ever installed at a school in the UK and is made up of 12,000 plants. The idea is that the plants help block harmful pollutants from reaching children as they play. ANS Global, the company behind the green wall, reduced their fees for the installation and have committed to maintaining it for free for the next five years. The company is providing training to teachers and parents at the school in order to explain in more detail how the living wall works.
“The living wall is splendid and has transformed the playground into a lush urban oasis will eventually be open to members of the public, as well as playing host to future community events, farmer markets, fairs, etc” said Andrea.
Photographs below: St Mary’s RC Primary School, Cllr Ron Moshiso with Sadiq Khan and music and dancing to entertain the crowd
Steve McIntyre, the Urban Environment Consultant who has been leading the construction of the green wall, also supported by ARUP who advised on this for free, explained to the Mayor “Research has shown that just green infrastructure can filter out up to 95% of the pollution created by vehicles, which demonstrates the true power of plants. We hope that Chiswick Oasis is the catalyst for more schools to learn about living walls, which have the potential to make a positive impact on people’s lives and health.”.
Next September the school will receive an extra injection of cash from Tree for Cities, which will add more green features to the playground, as well as a vegetable garden. Andrea Carnevali sees this as just the beginning. He wants to turn the school from one of the most polluted, to one of the greenest in London, and to provide a blueprint for others schools to follow suit. He has introduced ‘car free Fridays’ for parents and staff each week and then convinced local businesses to take part in monthly raffle draws and donate vouchers, free meals, massages and so on to the parents who’d chose to go to school by any means but a car.
“I was overwhelmed with the level of support we’ve received” says Carnevali “It’s been amazing to see so many people and organisations in Chiswick and beyond rally behind this. Clearly people are now seeing this as a real problem and they are willing to help as much as they can”.
Photographs below: Mayor of Sadiq Khan with Ruth Cadbury MP, organiser of the Chiswick Oasis Andrea Carnevali and Leader of Hounslow Council Steve Curran; children at St Mary’s RC Primary School, Sadiq Khan addressing the crowd and Cllr Ron Moshiso with Andrea.