GOVERNMENT ministers gave repeated assurances to parliament that fluoridation schemes would only go ahead if they were backed by affected residents, a court heard.

On the opening morning of a judicial review into South Central Strategic Health Authority's decision to add a chemical to the water supplies of nearly 200,000 Hampshire people barristers for Southampton woman Geraldine Milner have outlined their case.

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Mrs Milner believes health chiefs should not have approved the plans because of opposition during a public consultation.

London's Royal Courts of Justice heard today that while debating changes to the Water Act in 2003 and 2005 ministers said that residents views were key to the decision making process.

Speaking in October 2003 minister Melanie Johnson told the House of Commons: "there is a difficulty in weighing up the responses, but whatever the case, local opinion must be in favour of the proposal. Local opinion must support the measure overall. Whatever mechanism used a clear majority of people should be in favour."

During the public consultation before the SHA board approved fluoridation in February 2009 72% of respondents from the affected area, which affects parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams, said they were against the scheme.

In a separate telephone survey 38% of people questioned opposed adding fluoride while 32% gave it their backing.

The judicial review is examining what the governments intention was when it passed legislation determining how health authorities could approve fluoridation schemes.