A LEGAL challenge to the controversial decision to fluoridate Hampshire tap water has been lodged with the courts, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Lawyers acting for a Southampton woman have launched a claim for a judicial review into the way health chiefs backed the scheme.
If the decision is ruled unlawful, it could mean plans to add fluoride to the water supplies of almost 200,000 homes in parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams have to be scrapped.
The body that gave fluoridation the green light, South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA), has set aside £400,000 to fight the challenge, saying it has done nothing wrong.
The challenge is based on claims the SHA should not have approved fluoridation because public opinion was against it, and that evidence from opponents was not properly considered.
“The legal challenge itself is not about the pros and cons of the fluoridation, it’s about the fact that they have messed up how they have gone about the process,” said Sean Humber, of Leigh Day and Co, the solicitors handling the bid.
“The judge has to decide if we have raised issues that need to be looked at further. If he does grant permission for a judicial review, that’s the first hurdle done.
“That decision should be made in the next few weeks.”
The Daily Echo’s coverage of the fluoride debate forms part of the challenge, which has been lodged at London’s Royal Courts of Justice by Southampton resident Geraldine Milner and is being funded by legal aid.
Comments made to this newspaper by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in which he said the decision was “up to the local people” are being used to show the importance the Government placed on popular support for any scheme.
More than 10,000 responses were submitted to the SHA during its consultation.
Of those from people in the affected area, 72 per cent were against.
In a separate phone poll of 2,000 residents, 38 per cent opposed fluoridation, compared to 32 per cent supporting it.
The SHA last night said it believes it fulfilled and exceeded its legal requirements during the consultation.
“South Central SHA will defend the challenge and we are confident that the decision that has been made was carried out in accordance with the relevant legislation and in the best interests of the health of local people,” said a spokeswoman.