A familiar sight in the centre of Newcastle will be moving away from the city as works progress on the re-modelling of the Haymarket and Barras Bridge areas.

Installed in March 2018, England’s first Moss Tree has since had pride of place in front of St Thomas’ Church, gathering information on pollutants and researching the potential for the plant to act as an air filter.

As the highways works progress, the installation will be moved to one of Northumbrian Water’s treatment works.

However, any return to the city may be in the form of a new, second generation tree, as the manufacturer, Green City Solutions, is using learning from the Newcastle installation and from other operators around Europe to redesign a new and improved model. Other potential innovations are also being considered.

The Moss Tree came about as a result of Northumbrian Water’s first Innovation Festival in 2017. It was developed in partnership with Ordnance Survey and sited in conjunction with the local authority.

Clive Surman-Wells, Operations Solutions Manager at Northumbrian Water, said: “We are pleased that over the past 17 months the Moss Tree has contributed to the debate on air quality and helped raise awareness of this important issue.

“Everything we have learned has been fed back to the manufacturer to help them improve upon what is a really creative piece of innovation. Green City Solutions is developing a new version of the structure and we will be discussing potential venues for a return to the city with Newcastle City Council.

“One thing we have learned is that, due to the myriad variables that contribute to air quality fluctuations in urban locations, it is difficult to attribute improvements directly to what has been an attractive and functional addition to the area’s street furniture.

“However, it is worth noting that the debate and innovations around air quality have moved on in the last 12 months, with things like bus mounted air filters being developed, so all options are being considered for what happens next.”

Results have shown the Moss Tree acts as a filter, removing some of the fine dust “PM” particles which are emitted from the brakes and tyres of all vehicles and which can affect health, especially older people or children.

The technology is already improving and Green City Solutions say those installations using active ventilation systems (a fan to suck air through the moss) in laboratory conditions, are seeing results that are five to ten times better.

Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council, said: “We are delighted to have played a part in this project – the first of its kind in the country – to measure and reduce levels of pollution from vehicles in this busy part of the city centre.

“It has helped to raise awareness about air quality while also generating useful data and information about the impact it has had on pollution levels and about how such installations can be developed and improved upon.

“Although this particular trial is coming to an end, the issue of pollution and how we should tackle it remains a high priority, not just for us but for the thousands of people who took part in the air quality consultation earlier this year.”