IS IT possible to measure happiness? The Government thinks so and has published a survey of people's perceptions about where they live and how happy they are with the place where they have made their home.

While Harrow borough residents are largely happy with their lot - 70.4 per cent of people who responded to the Department of Communities and Local Government's Place Survey - it does not quite meet with the approval of other districts of the capital.

People in Richmond, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster were the most contented, while Harrow came 22nd of the 32 boroughs in the satisfaction list, beaten by Hillingdon, Hackney, Barnet, Bromley and Wandsworth.

Barking and Dagenham and Newham have the least satisfied population, managing an approval rating of about 56 per cent.

The survey, published at the end of June, was based on the views and perceptions of more than 500,000 people in 152 authority areas about where they live.

Participants were asked how they felt about a range of factors affecting their quality of life, from council services such as recycling, libraries, transport and theatres, to problems with anti-social behaviour and drugs in their neighbourhood.

Of those in Harrow who were sent the questions, only 36 per cent both-ered to respond.

One cab driver who used to work in Harrow but did not wish to be identified said: "Harrow on the Hill is nice but central Harrow is scruffy.

"There are lots of pubs about and some of their licences are too long, which causes problems, especially at the weekend.

"Harrow is a mess with too many roadworks. I don't enjoy working there, especially South Harrow, as it's quite dangerous.

"The bus station causes trouble, especially with youths. People are now frightened to enter it. It needs to be knocked down and opened out."

Honorary secretary of the Pinner Association, Ruth Boff, said: "We work hard to improve life in Harrow. It is very diverse geographically and I can understand that people may be unhappy in certain areas, especially where the infrastructure is old and there are busy roads.

"Most people do find Harrow to be a desirable place to live. There is change occurring and many people are working hard to make good changes and minimise negative impacts."

Reverend James Mercer, vicar at All Saints' Church, Uxbridge Road, Harrow Weald, emphasised the strength of the community.

He said: "I would consider the folk I know best, the people of All Saints' Church, to be happy because they are part of two communities.

"Firstly they are part of the Harrow Weald community, and many of them have lived here for a very long time.

"Secondly they are part of the All Saints' community, which provides friendship and support. People at the church focus outwards to the needs of others, which I consider very important to happiness."

One man who likes to raise a smile is laughter yoga teacher Harish Chavda, 50, who runs the weekly Harrow Laughter Club in South Harrow.

He said: "In this city life, people come home from work and watch television, where they see negativity in the news, and this produces negative thinking.

"People should spend more time with nature, playing with young children, doing exercise and should laugh more.

"As they say, laughter is the best medicine. We have about 25 people at our laughter club every month. They are often stressed out about the outside world at first, but after laughing exercises, and laughing for absolutely no reason at all, they often feel a lot better."

Martin Blake, 37, owner of The Trinity pub in Station Road, said: "We do get the odd early afternoon crowd who may moan about corrupt politicians and over-pensioned bankers, but they rarely talk about about local issues.

"I think people are unhappy in Harrow because of the constant barrage of doom and gloom presented to them through the press and media. The bad news makes people frightened.

"Most people who go to pubs do so to forget that. They come to meet friends, have a drink, a dance and a bit of fun which explains the vibrant atmosphere. People from Harrow do rub along well together."

Of the respondents to the Place Shaping survey, 76.2 per cent of Harrovians agreed that their area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together.

And despite a mixture of seemingly happy pub-goers, local sporting and leisure facilities were given a satisfaction rating of just 36.3 per cent, the third lowest rating in the capital.

Councillor Chris Mote (Conservative), portfolio holder for community and cultural services, said: "People may complain about facilities but that's not because there aren't any facilities. There are facilities around the borough.

"But we can only put facilities there, we can't force people to use them.

"A large number of people from our borough suffer from type two diabetes, which is much higher than other boroughs.

"People from Harrow don't do much exercise and we're trying to get youngsters back into it.

"We did have plans to build three new pools but the recession has made that impossible. There is still a new pool due to open in Hatch End High School."

Leader of the Labour group, Councillor Bill Stephenson, had his own take: "The report's findings correspond with surveys that we've had before. It confirms all that we've been saying: residents aren't happy with the way the current administration run things.

"The elections in 10 months should reflect this as residents can express their views at the ballot box.

"The current administration was proposing to knock down the current leisure centre and replace it with one that was half the size. We desperately need more local sports facilities, indoor games halls and multi-use games areas and we don't need every-thing to be centralised in one leisure centre.

"There has been some progress but there is a long way to go."

Approval ratings for theatres and concert halls in Harrow also came third bottom of London's boroughs, with just 22 per cent of participants giving the service a thumbs-up.

Mr Stephenson added: "There were proposals for a professional performance base at the Gayton Library site but these were ditched. It's an absolute disgrace. We've been campaigning for 20 to 30 years to get one - Harrow is crying out for one. We also have one excellent museum at Headstone Manor, which very few people know about."

Mr Mote added: "We have a fairly good arts centre. It was closed down and the council reopened it. It will take time to build up. We also have a number of small theatres, and leisure facilities are getting slowly better."

The Place Shaping survey found that only 58.8 per cent of Harrow people were happy with the parks and open spaces.

Despite this, Paddy Lyne, chair-woman of Weald Tenants and Residents' Association, said: "I'm very happy in Harrow. I like the community, the green, the fields and I find it is handy to get into London. People I've met in Harrow seem happy too.

"Obviously you get people who say 'this hasn't been done' or 'that hasn't been done' but you would get that anywhere you go in the country."

Communities secretary John Denham said the results of the survey demonstrate the importance of listening to local people and what they want for their local area.

He said: "This survey gives us an important and comprehensive insight into what people think of where they live and their local authorities.

"The improvements we've seen in local services are not being reflected in people's perception of their council. I want to see local councils do more - and gain more power - to shape the services offered in their area. Improving services is a good end in its own right, but it needs to be matched by increased public satisfaction and increased confidence in local councils."

Margaret Opare, chairwoman of Rayners Lane Tenants and Residents' Association, said: "Harrow is one of the safest boroughs. I've lived here for 18 years and had no problems. My kids are happy too.

"I can even walk out in the middle of the night in Rayners Lane and I will feel safe. Things are getting better."

Mark Mills, from charity the Harrow Hill Trust, which seeks to enhance the Hill as an exciting place to live, said: "People on the Hill appear very happy.

"We're not overly pleased with planning proposals by the council though. It may offer a reasonable level of services but we do query the wisdom of planning.

"The Hill is a great place to live." [

* The survey is at .