Air pollution is now the top issue of concern among residents in London’s historic centre, town hall chiefs revealed today.
A fifth of people named it in a survey in Westminster as a very or fairly big problem — more than double the number who said anti-social behaviour and crime from problem families, and around three times as many as those worried about gangs and gang violence.
The only other issue causing a similar level of concern as filthy air in the city centre borough is homelessness and people begging on the streets.
“This survey sends a clear message that air quality is now the leading issue for a great many Londoners,” said Heather Acton, Westminster city council cabinet member for sustainability and parking.
She added: “In Westminster we are taking this very seriously and are working with businesses and residents to create a greener city.
“A key part of this is our bid for a Low Emissions Neighbourhood in Marylebone, which we hope will be an important step toward delivering our greener city vision for Westminster.”
A thousand residents aged 16 or over were given a list of possible concerns and asked in face-to-face interviews: “Thinking about this local area, how much of a problem do you think are…?”
They were invited to rate them as a “very big problem”, “fairly big problem”, “not a very big problem”, “not a problem at all” or “don’t know”.
Twenty per cent named poor air quality as either a very big or fairly big problem in the survey, carried out at the end of last year, the same result for people homeless or begging on the streets, followed by rubbish and litter lying around on 19 per cent.
Three issues came next on 15 per cent; parents not taking responsibility for the behaviour of their children, noise from building sites and dog fouling on pavements.
They were followed by noisy neighbours or loud parties, people being drunk or rowdy in public places, teenagers hanging around on the streets, and people not treating other people with respect and consideration, all on 14 per cent.
Noise from commercial entertainment properties such as pubs got a problem score of 12 per cent, people using or dealing in drugs got 11 per cent, and particular families in the neighbourhood causing crime and anti-social behaviour got eight per cent.
Lower down the list came issues related to licensed premises (seven per cent), violence among young people (six per cent), gangs and gang violence (also six per cent), dangerous/aggressive dogs (five per cent) and vandalism, graffiti and other deliberate damage to property or vehicles (four per cent).
Scientists have put the death toll from toxic air in London at more than 9,000 a year.
Mayor Boris Johnson has introduced a series of measures to cut air pollution, including bringing in an Ultra Low Emission Zone by 2020, but environmentalists and other experts say he has been too slow in fully addressing the problem.