Harlesden: Call for action to clean up UK's 'most polluted street'

Air pollution monitoring device installed

Air pollution monitoring device installed - Credit: Jonathan Goldberg

Parents in a North West London town have pleaded for action to clean up the air in “the most polluted high street in the UK”. 

Residents of Harlesden in Brent have hit out at the poor air quality which they said was impacting their lives daily. 

They said they wanted their children to grow up in a “cleaner, safer environment” than the one they currently live in. 

They have started measuring the levels of pollution along Harlesden’s high street through a machine provided by campaign group Breathe London.  

Data collected by Imperial College London and published in a Times article in March 2021, claimed the town’s high street had the highest levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide in the whole country. 

Environmental campaigner Amandine Alexandre, who lives in Harlesden with her son, said reading these statistics prompted her to start measuring air quality levels and highlight the dangers. 

High levels of nitrogen dioxide can cause coughs and shortness of breath, reduce immunity to lung infections and particularly affect those with asthma. 

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Amandine said: “Anyone living in Harlesden is very conscious of how polluted our high street is because it is so heavily used by cars and trucks. It’s crucial our experience as residents is backed up by data.”

Since the kit was installed earlier this month, it has recorded nitrogen dioxide levels of 100 micrograms per cubic metre – four times more than the safe limits outlined by the World Health Organisation – on at least five occasions. 

Fellow Harlesden resident, mum-of-two Daisy Popham, said she hoped highlighting these high levels of pollution will lead to more investment in the area and improve traffic flow. 

Brent Council said it was committed to tackling climate change and improving air quality.  A council spokesperson said: “Sadly air pollution is a problem across London and some areas are especially affected.

“This data demonstrates how we are all going to have to think about how we travel in the future to deliver meaningful change. 

“Harlesden has been one of the town centres we’ve focused on recently and it has seen a decline in air pollution over the last five years. 

“As a council, we have been doing our bit to tackle the problems holistically, introducing cargo bike pilots with businesses to cut polluting deliveries, and projects like School Streets where roads are closed to traffic at drop-off and pick-up times.

“Later in the year, we will be consulting on Brent’s air quality action plan – we’d love to hear from residents. The plan will include measures to clean up the air in some of our most polluted areas."