MORE than 3,000 people have already signed a petition calling for plans to fluoridate Hampshire’s water to be overturned.

Campaigners say they have been delighted with the public response to their bid to stop the chemical being added to the tap water of nearly 200,000 Hampshire residents.

They have also been boosted by a U-turn from one of the Southampton councillors who initially backed the scheme.

Cllr Jeremy Moulton, the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Southampton Test, voted to support fluoridation when the city council examined the proposals last November.

The authority’s support for fluoridation – by 26 to 18 in a free vote – was seen as c r u c i a l , b e c a u s e Southampton was the only council to back the scheme.

Hampshire, Eastleigh, New Forest, and Test Valley councils all passed motions opposing it.

But the city’s cabinet member for finance says he has now shifted his position, not because of the health case for fluoridation but because of the strength of feeling against it.

“I did vote for fluoridation, after quite a bit of research and after attending some of the scrutiny enquiry debates and listening to all the points of view,” said Cllr Moulton.

“But in light of the overwhelming opposition from the public I do not feel that it should now go ahead.

“I think it is quite wrong that the decision was taken by an unelected and unaccountable quango.”

More than 10,000 people responded to South Central Strategic Health Authority’s (SHA’s) public consultation on the plans, designed to improve poor dental health in Southampton.

Almost three-quarters of those who responded to the questionnaire said they were against it.

But in February, the SHA board voted unanimously to approve the proposals, meaning fluoride could be added to the water supply before the end of next year.

Hampshire Against Fluoridation, which is leading the campaign against the scheme, last month launched a petition it plans to deliver to the Prime Minister to show the strength of opposition.

It has also set up a fighting fund to help finance a potential legal challenge to the SHA’s decision.

“The sense of anger is very tangible, and we had a great many offers of help with our campaign,” said HAF member Caroline Place.

HAF is now planning a public meeting in Woolston on April 25.