Fluoride Action Network

Southampton/Hampshire: Health chiefs fight on over fluoride in Southampton’s water

Source: Daily Echo | September 8th, 2009 | By John Reeve
Location: United Kingdom, England

HEALTH chiefs insist they will defend their decision to approve plans to fluoridate tap water delivered to Hampshire homes.

A judge has granted permission for a judicial review into South Central Strategic Health Authority’s move to give the controversial scheme the green light, because of claims public opinion was ignored.

But the SHA says it is confident it followed the law and met or exceeded all the legal requirements placed on it, and its decision was right.

Mr Justice Mitting said the application for a judicial review, lodged by Southampton woman Geraldine Milner, raises a “stark public law question” over whether the SHA should have taken public opinion more into account.

More than 10,000 people responded during the public consultation into the fluoridation plans, which affect two-thirds of Southampton and parts of Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.

Of those living in the affected area who gave their views, 72 per cent said they did not want the chemical added to their water.

The SHA also held a separate phone poll of 2,000 residents, in which 32 per cent backed the plans, compared to 38 per cent who opposed them.

The authority will now have to explain why it did not listen to those views when its board unanimously approved fluoridation for Hampshire.

The judge said statements made by ministers when the regulations were before Parliament were “unequivocal” in saying fluoride would only be added to the water where the local population supported it.

He accepted the SHA’s defence it followed the law, which says it only had to “pay regard” to public opinion, but wants the lawfulness of that approach to be scrutinised in court.

But Mr Justice Mitting rejected claims there were any other faults with the SHA’s decision making.

An SHA spokesman said the authority will now defend its position on public opinion.

“Mr Justice Mitting found that there was an arguable case in relation to whether South Central Strategic Health Authority was entitled to rely on the regulations, or whether it should have had regard to verbal statements made in Parliament,” he said.

“South Central Strategic Health Authority is pleased with the ruling and the Judge’s view that ‘in all other respects the decision-making process was unimpeachable’.

“The SHA remains confident that the decision that has been made by the SHA board was carried out in accordance with the relevant legislation laid down by Parliament, and is in the best interests of the health of local people.”