A LANDMARK court case that will decide the future of a controversial scheme to fluoridate Hampshire tap water was due to start today.

A High Court judge is set to examine whether or not health bosses were right to approve the plans in a bid to improve children’s dental health in Southampton, despite public opposition.

If the legal challenge, which has been brought by city resident Geraldine Milner, is successful, it could mean the scheme – the first in the country to be approved by a health authority rather than an elected council – is stopped.

But South Central Strategic Health Authority, which has set aside £400,000 to fight the judicial review, insists it did everything it was required to by law during a public consultation held before its board gave the plans the green light, nearly two years ago.

Despite Government plans to scrap all SHAs by next spring, it insists it would press ahead with work to see the chemical added to the water supplies of parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams, if their defence is successful.

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As revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo, the leaders of Southampton City and Hampshire County councils, the bodies which will take over responsibility for fluoridation, both say they would call on the Government to stop the SHA introducing it in its “dying days”.

Ahead of the start of the two-day hearing, campaigners were due to stage a demonstration on the steps of London’s Royal Courts of Justice against the NHS body continuing to defend its case.

Stephen Peckham, chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoridation said: “Local anger about the SHA’s decision has grown since 2009. People feel that fluoridation is being imposed on them without their consent or approval.

“If Ms Milner had not taken this action the SHA would have just steam-rolled ahead with a total disregard for the evidence and local opinion.”