GREEN  campaigners are today taking their battle to clean up filthy air in a Hampshire city to the European Commission.

They are to formally complain to the European Union about the chronic breaking of EU air quality levels in  Winchester.

This afternoon Green Euro-MP Keith Taylor will be in the city to highlight the complaint.

For years the city centre has had high levels of nitrogen dioxide, some 25 per cent over the maximum permitted under both EU and UK legislation.

Long-term exposure to NO2 at these levels is thought to increase the likelihood of asthma attacks and respiratory illness in children.

The campaigners are calling for the problem to be tackled by cutting traffic in the city centre.

Winchester Friends of the Earth asked the city council to produce a plan to meet the legal air quality requirements over a specific timescale. The council declined to provide such a plan, says FoE.

Mr Taylor, Green Party MEP, said: “I'm glad that people in Winchester have taken this bold step to voice their concerns at a European level. Air pollution levels are worryingly high and we've seen no serious action from either the city or the county council.

“I'm pleased to be supporting their complaint to the European Commission in Brussels. It's high time that action was taken to make Winchester a healthier, safer place to live in and travel around.”

Dr Michael Wilks, of Winchester Green Party, said “The health implications of a traffic-dominated town are very serious, both directly and indirectly. Indirectly, traffic inhibits the healthy alternatives to car access to the city - walkers and cyclists are deterred, intimidated and put in positive danger in a car-dominated street system. Motor traffic directly affects the health of Winchester residents through pollution.”

Hazel Agombar of Friends of the Earth said: “As a mother of children in a city centre school directly affected by the traffic, I constantly ask myself why it is that the city council believes it is so much more important to listen to the lobbying of business interests than to try and prevent our children being poisoned. We have waited years for the Council to take proper responsibility for this.”