CAMPAIGNERS made their views heard on Southampton’s clean air proposals – by coughing as councillors debated plans they hope will quash pollution in the city.

Green crusaders took position in the public gallery above city council members, and ‘cleared their throats’ whenever Labour’s Green City chief Councillor Steve Leggett mentioned the clean air plan – which was released last week, to make reference to the city’s air quality problems

The scheme was criticised by campaigners after civic chiefs chose to drop plans for an up-to-£100 commercial charging zone – which was the authority’s preferred option.

Instead they decided to bring in methods which included new bus regulations, removing the most environmentally unfriendly taxis from the roads, encouraging taxi firms to use electric vehicles, and reducing private vehicle use.

They council says the non-charging measures will bring air quality levels to within legal limits before 2020, which the authority has been lobbied to do by government after it was named as one of the worst polluting cities in the country.

But, at the special overview and scrutiny management committee, Green Resistance’s John Spottiswoode branded the plans as the “cheapest and easiest” way of meeting these targets, without actually tackling the main pollution problem.

He added: “The plans do not cover the council’s duty of care to residents; I demand that this duty is fulfilled.”


Opposition councillors also grilled Cllr Leggett, with Conservative stalwart Councillor Peter Baillie questioning whether the measures “do anything to tackle air quality”.

Tory leader Councillor Dan Fitzhenry added that he felt “more and more uncomfortable” about the plans, especially – he says, as the council has gone from “one end of the spectrum to the other” in terms of addressing the issue.

Cllr Leggett said: “Our vision is to recommend a package of non-charging measures to continue with the Clean Air package that our authority released back in 2016.

“Along with this, we will release our Green City Charter next week, which goes above and beyond the clean air target [which have been set out by government].”


Nevertheless, the Green City boss would not reveal anymore about the charter – which will be unveiled at the special clean air cabinet meeting on January 22.

Additionally, regarding claims from the campaigners of ignoring the consultation response – which found that 4,300 residents backed plans to charge vehicles, he added: “We are not ignoring the results of the consultation; we’re very much listening to them.

"One of the main comments we received, from around 1,200 people, was for the port to do more, especially by introducing Shore Power [which allows ships at port to run on electrical energy, instead of leaving its polluting engine on].

“The port have agreed to do this.”

Cllr Baillie said: “These measures in the report do not do anything to tackle air quality and makes no difference to the health of our population.

“What we need is a 10/15 year plan that is created with cross-party discussions. This needs to be a long-term plan.”

This suggestion received a round of applause from audience members.

The plans will be debated once again at a special cabinet meeting next week.

Starting at 10am on Tuesday in Southampton’s Guildhall, councillors will make the final decisions before the proposals are signed off.

They will then be sent to Westminster for ministerial approval.