COUNCILLORS have unanimously approved its Clean Air Zone plan, which proposes a range of non-charging pollution-cutting measures.

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.

Civic chiefs, today, unanimously approved this at a special cabinet meeting held in the city's Guildhall. More than 80 residents and business owners turned out.

No amendments were made to the plans before they were submitted.

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.

Council leader Chris Hammond said: "The question set by the government was 'How do we get to 40mg of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by 2020?'

"This was never about the wider clean air issues in Southampton. It was about NO2 levels. We will be under the limit (set by Westminster) with this plan."

The council has also received assurances from the port to get shore-power installed - which allows ships at port to run on electrical energy, instead of leaving its polluting engine on.

Alastair Welch, ABP Southampton director, said: "Listening to speakers here today, everyone wants cleaner air.

"All the work thus far has been to do with nitrogen dioxide because of government targets.

"We have seen some good work so far to reduce NO2, but we can now use this to look at the wider picture.

"This is a big opportunity for us now to achieve the legal NO2 obligation, but now we need to work together as a city to bring in even more pollution improvements within the area.

"We want cleaner air for the long term; for all of us."