Dirt and beggars loom large in London's image: Simon Midgley looks at what Londoners think about their city

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Indy Politics
DIRTY, litter-strewn streets, unreliable and overcrowded public transport and beggars sleeping rough on the streets are putting people off visiting London, according to a Government survey of what Londoners think of the nation's capital.

In a consultation exercise launched in November last year, almost 11,000 people answered a questionnaire about the state of London, with 47 per cent saying that dirty streets were a problem, 31 per cent that public transport was not up to scratch and 30 per cent that beggars frightened visitors away.

High prices for hotels, restaurants and theatres, traffic congestion, air pollution, unsafe streets and expensive public transport were also cited as factors likely to put off visitors.

Yesterday John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, and John MacGregor, the Secretary of State for Transport, announced the results of the survey, published in a report, Ten thousand views of London, and announced plans designed to improve the capital's environment and transport facilities.

In response to the survey's finding that 60 per cent of respondents thought London's streets were dirty, Mr Gummer has commissioned the Tidy Britain Group to undertake a study of litter in London boroughs.

Mr Gummer also announced that the Department of the Environment would be producing a comprehensive study of the Thames from Hampton Court Palace in the west to the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, to examine how the environment of the river can be improved.

There will also be an investigation into the feasibility of developing a cycle route along the river from Hampton Court to Dartford.

Mr MacGregor announced a competition for private manufacturers to bid to build up to 100 new trains for London Underground's Northern Line service. The cost is likely to be in the region of pounds 400m. The private sector will be invited to finance the cost of the trains and provide a complete maintenance and support service.

A study is also to be undertaken to establish what action needs to be taken to create a network of pedestrian/cycling routes across London.

The survey found that nearly a quarter of respondents felt that further action was needed to tackle air pollution in the capital. More than one in 10 felt that London's leisure facilities should operate round the clock - for example, that licensing hours should be extended and public transport services should run later.

Almost one-third of those surveyed thought London should have its own single elected strategic planning authority along the lines of the late Greater London Council. A quarter of all Londoners were worried about crime.

One of the more unusual suggestions was that the capital should have a network of smaller police stations similiar to the numerous small police posts found in Japanese cities, where community policing is prevalent.

The Government's sudden announcement, coming just five weeks before May's local elections, is designed to give a last minute boost to Conservative morale in London before electorally sensitive announcements are forbidden under Civil Service rules.

Ten thousand views of London, Department of the Environment, free.