IT was billed as a neverbefore- seen landmark scheme that would lower the city's carbon footprint and help make Southampton one of the greenest cities on the map.

From April this year £1m was to be set aside by the city council to fund loans of up to £10,000 for residents who wanted to turn their house into an environmentally friendly home - leading to energy-producing wind turbines, solar-powered heating, and lower fuel bills with double- glazed windows and wall insulation.

However, when Labour and Liberal Democrat city councillors joined forces to oust the Tories from control, they did away with the radical REcharge scheme, saying they want to look for other ideas.

Green campaigners in the south say that the move has lost them the chance to make the city a leading authority on reducing carbon footprints and giving Southampton a great reputation for actively dealing with climate change.

New council leader, Labour councillor June Bridle, defended the move to axe the loans.

She said: "The loans idea was not well thought through.

Cllr Dick seemed to pluck the idea out of fresh air. It made a good soundbite but no one had looked at how it would actually work.

"I don't think it will harm Southampton's eco-status.

Many cities and boroughs up and down the country have many ideas and we will be exploring all options.

"We really do believe we can promote a sustainable city and want to come up with some good ways of tackling the carbon footprint and environment issues that bother all of us."

Lib Dem group leader Cllr Adrian Vinson said: "We are very strongly in favour of encouraging people to improve the environmental footprint of their homes, but there are a number of ways in which people can do this that are already available.

"This was an extremely high-cost way in which the council would be duplicating existing schemes. While the principle is no doubt worthy, this is yet again a gimmick for election purposes and not a deeply serious contribution to the issue of reducing carbon emissions."

Chris Bluemel, co-ordinator of Southampton and Eastleigh Friends of the Earth, said that it was a bad excuse.

He said: "Southampton has lost a good opportunity to show leadership and get a lot of respect from councils across the country. No radical idea or Government scheme is ever totally thought out and always has to be worked on.

"I think the council has lost a good opportunity in terms of its reputation."

Mr Bluemel said that the council should consider helping residents in poorer areas because they end up spending more money on energy and fuel because they cannot afford the cost of green home enhancements.

He said: "Many can't afford the insulation or the doubleglazing windows costs and end up spending more than they want to on energy to heat their homes.

"They should also look at making public transport better and cycling safer in communities.

A lot of people are concerned with their carbon footprint and how much energy they are using."

Dr Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for the south-east, said that the scrapping of the loans would be a step backwards in the daily fight against climate change.

"It is crucial that homeowners are given the necessary support to improve the efficiency of their homes to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen energy usage - and in the process cutting their ever-increasing energy bills," she said.