GREEN campaigners have accused Hampshire council bosses of “poisoning” residents with air pollution.
As Southern England was hit by a wave of smog today, dozens of them marched downed Winchester High Street.
Around 40 of them, waving banners and chanting, arrived at the Guildhall to hand the city council a copy of the complaint that Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for South East England, will take to the EU next week.
The European Commission has already taken the first steps towards prosecuting the UK government for failing to meet air quality targets, and Mr Taylor says Winchester City Council has been warned that it is one of the offenders.
Harmful carbon emissions in the city centre are amongst in Hampshire and have been monitored by central government for over ten years.
Mr Taylor said: “Winchester City Council says it's a balance between economic prosperity and environmental health. But that is absurd. They are breaking the law. You cannot break the law 'a little bit'.'”
Hazel Agombar, of Winchester Friends of the Earth, said: “People are just fed up. They're really sick of it now. It's beginning to dawn on people that this problem is bad and it's going to get worse.”
Chris Gillham, of Winchester Friends of the Earth, said: “I just do not think the council have taken us seriously. You should not morally have laws that try to find a balance between poisoning people and not poising them.”
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), who are understood to have written to the council warning them of the legal action, said: “Air quality has improved significantly in recent decades. Just like for other member states, meeting the NO2 limit values alongside busy roads has been a challenge.
“That is why we are investing heavily in transport measures to improve air quality around busy roads and we are working with the European Commission to ensure this happens as soon as possible.”
Eventually, the city council’s chief executive, Simon Eden, collected the document after protestors refused to be fobbed off.