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Community / Public space

Air pollution is ruining London's views

Those of you with your heads buried in the political press may not have noticed, but UK air quality has taken a dive over the past month or so. 

Take a look at the photo above, taken on 10 April. From the photo’s vantage point, Hampstead Heath, you should be able to see Canary Wharf in high definition – here, it’s barely visible. 

And take this photo, where Blackfriars bridge is visible, but the area directly behind it is populated by creepy ghost buildings: 

Where has the Shard gone?

St Paul’s? Hello?

Luckily, it looks like action will be taken on pollution levels within the next year.  


On 29 April, the UK supreme court ordered the government to take action on the country’s pollution levels, which have been in breach of EU regulations for years and could well be causing early deaths from respiratory disease. Five judges unanimously ruled that the government must draw up a plan to bring pollution levels within EU maximums by the end of 2015.

In London, measures taken to improve air pollution under Boris Johnson’s mayoralty have been criticised for not going far enough by the London Assembly. In fact, in 2014 Johnson responded to news from scientists that NO2 levels in the capital were 11 times the EU maximum with: “B*ll*cks: ludicrous urban myth.” (He later accepted the scientists’ data was correct, and not, in fact, a myth.) So it’s possible that a change of mayor could improve air quality in the capital, too. 

Meanwhile, others have taken more direct action. On Sunday, air pollution protesters, concerned a new runway would make pollution worse, staged a “lie-in” at Heathrow’s terminal 5:

Let’s hope something changes – for the sake of our lungs, if not our skyline.
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