CAMPAIGNERS have launched the latest weapon in their battle against plans to add fluoride to Southampton’s tap water.

They have started a petition that would force city councillors to hold a fresh debate on the issue having previously voted in favour of the controversial proposal.

Anti-fluoride protesters now need one per cent of Southampton’s population of 236,700 to sign up.

By law, the council would then have to debate fluoridation for at least 15 minutes and campaigners would have the right to give a five minute presentation.

The petition was unveiled at a public meeting of Hampshire Against Fluoridation (HAF) in Southampton.

HAF has been at the forefront of the fight against plans approved by South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) to add fluoride to water delivered to nearly 200,000 residents in parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.

More than 100 people were at St Andrew’s Church Hall in The Avenue for the public meeting on Saturday.

Local dentist Zac Cox – an opponent of the scheme – was a guest speaker at the free event.

HAF chairman Stephen Peckham said: “Our battle is now political. The law is so heavily weighted in favour of the people making the decision they don’t have to pay attention to local views.

We would like to see that changed, we don’t think it is fair.”

He described the turnout at the meeting as “brilliant” and said it showed people were still angry over the issue.

As reported, a legal challenge is still being fought against fluoridation, which health chiefs want to bring in to improve children’s teeth across the area.

Southampton mum Gerri Milner last month lost a judicial review over whether the SHA should have been able to ignore widespread public opposition to the plans when its board approved it.

But she has lodged an appeal against the High Court judge’s decision that the authority fully assessed all the evidence that was submitted during a public consultation.

The plans have been on hold for nearly two years while the legal challenge has gone through the courts.

The SHA, which is due to be scrapped by the Government as soon as next spring, has said it still believes fluoridation is beneficial, but is currently considering its next steps over the plans. When it is abolished the city council will become responsible for public health schemes such as fluoridation.

City councillors backed fluoridation in 2008 but more recently said they would hold a referendum before the scheme was implemented.

• The petition can be signed online at Paper copies are available from Hampshire Against Fluoridation by ringing (023) 8049 3776.