Lymington Times – 1 November 2014
Controversial plans to add fluoride to Totton's water supply have officially been scrapped after years of opposition by campaigners. South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) decided five years ago to add the mineral in a bid to tackle child tooth decay. It would have affected 190,000 people in Southampton, including 8,000 Totton residents. The move was opposed by lobby group Hampshire Against Fluoride, which was set up shortly after the controversial, decision was made, as well as Hampshire County Council, Southampton City Council, Totton and Eling Town Council and New Forest East MP Julian Lewis.
However, the plans have been in limbo since the SHA was abolished by the Government last year. As no contracts were signed before its demise and no scheme finalised, the plans could not be continued by either Public Health England (PHE) or local councils without beginning the whole process again. In a statement PHE confirmed this week that the plans would be scrapped, ending years of uncertainty for residents. Speaking about the decision, PHE's chief executive Duncan Selbie said:
“Water fluoridation would make a big difference to the dental health of Southampton children, particularly those in the most socially deprived areas. We regret having to drop the scheme, but we believe it is the right decision in the circumstances. We want to work with Southampton City Council to tackle high rates of tooth decay. We have offered support to the council in coming up with plans to reduce tooth decay among local children.”
On hearing the news, Coun. David Harrison, who represents Totton at a town, district and county level, said:
“I am absolutely delighted. We have won. It's going to take a while for the news to sink in properly – it's a battle I have been closely involved in over many years, involving trips to London, speaking in the Houses of Parliament, collecting and handing in petitions to Downing Street, speaking at public meetings and introducing the topic on council agendas. It's really important because it matters not just in this area of the country but signals to other health officials that it cannot be imposed elsewhere … I would like to place on record thanks to others who have been involved in this campaign, especially the lobby group Hampshire Against Fluoride, all of the individuals who kept writing letters to the press, our local MP Julian Lewis and fellow councillors at town, district and county councils who voted and spoke against the plans.”
Hampshire County Council leader, Coun. Roy Perry, said the authority welcomed the decision.
“I am pleased to learn of Public Health England's decision to drop their proposal – this is good news for Hampshire. With the doubts that were raised about the science and efficacy of fluoridation, the county council has long been opposed to the plans. However, our greatest resistance has always been on the principle of compulsory medication of the public water supply. Understandably, we recognise that today's decision does now place greater onus on the county council as a public health authority to maintain and, where possible, increase efforts to help improve the dental and oral health of children across the county. With tooth decay and gum disease linked to serious health problems in other parts of the body, oral health is already an important priority, and work is well underway in these areas.”
New Forest East MP Julian Lewis also welcomed the decision.
“Successive governments claimed that people should decide whether tap water should be fluoridated, but unelected bodies were determined to ignore opposition ... There has been a genuine community campaign, supported by the local residents and members of all political parties who recognise that it would be wrong to press ahead without popular support. It's an outcome which should never have taken so long to achieve, but which is nevertheless welcome.”