'Living wall' plan for former HMRC building in Wolverhampton

The former HM Revenue and Customs building in Wolverhampton city centre – which is being be transformed into 93 new flats – has this week been granted planning permission for the external installation of a ‘living wall’.

Crown House, the former HM Revenue & Customs offices in Birch Street, Wolverhampton. Photo: Google
Crown House, the former HM Revenue & Customs offices in Birch Street, Wolverhampton. Photo: Google

Also known as vertical gardens, living walls are vertical surfaces covered with plants.

Specialists ANS Global will be carrying out the work, which will also incorporate an irrigation system, at Crown House in Birch Street.

One of the city’s most recognisable office buildings for many years, the premises has been vacant since the government body announced it would be moving all staff to Birmingham in 2015.

The six-storey building, situated close to Chapel Ash island on the Ring Road, is now being converted into a mixture of luxury one and two-bedroomed apartments after planning permission was finally granted last year.

Previous applications to convert the block into flats were made in 2018 and 2020 but the plans never came to fruition at the time.

A report from ANS Global, issued as part of the application, said: “Almost since the concept of cities was created, human civilisations have sought to integrate nature with their living style.

“Notably, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon included vertical planting and hanging plants which are thought to be the first incarnation of the living wall.

“The use of living walls has increased in modern times and a range of living wall systems have emerged with various intended applications and varying degrees of success.”

The benefits of living walls include better air quality, noise deflection and alternative ecological habitats for insects, bats and birds.

ANS Director Scott Anderson said: “Over the past twelve years we’ve designed, installed and maintained more square metres of living wall than any other company in the world.

“A heritage in horticulture and innovative designs with global reach, we’re on a mission to educate the world on how we can bring our urban landscapes to life, improve the air quality and create healthier spaces for people now and the future generations.

“Our living wall system uses natural soil for optimum natural plant health. Our bespoke module is cradle-to-cradle, meaning it is made from recycled material and is recyclable too.”

Due to its location, the building provides easy access to the city centre, with the main bus and rail stations just a kilometre away.

The property currently has 145 parking spaces, of which 125 bays will be retained alongside the creation of six new disabled spaces once the development is complete.

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