A GREEN MEP visited Winchester's schools and civic chiefs to discuss improving air quality.

Keith Taylor, MEP for the South East, met with pupils at St Bede Primary School and Kings School where he learnt about their pupil-led 'eco teams' before sitting down with the city council to debate its air quality plan.

The schools were among those that took part last month's inaugural National Clean Air Day.

Jean MacGrory, school travel planning officer for Hampshire County Council, said: “Reducing car travel, promoting ‘Park and Stride’ and switching off idling engines whilst parents wait for their children will help improve air quality around schools.

“We are working with schools to encourage walking, cycling and scooting to school which not only helps to improve air quality but also means children are fitter and arrive at school more alert and able to learn.”

Mr Taylor said: “I'm pleased to see a positive, pupil-led project in action because it’s abundantly clear that urgent action on air pollution is needed.

“Recent figures on the number children across South East England exposed to toxic pollutants make for shocking reading.

“We know that air pollution is a serious threat to children’s health. We know that thousands of preventable deaths every year in the South East are attributable to air pollution. And we know that children’s health is being put at risk by a government consistently refusing to take the air quality crisis seriously.

“ Not only do we need pupil-led proposals, we need clean air zones, we need clean public transport options and a huge improvement in the numbers of people cycling and walking."

Following his school visits, Keith Taylor sat down with Winchester City Council officials to discuss their "wholly inadequate" air quality plan.

He was joined by Friends of the Earth campaigner, Chris Gillham, who said: “We are pleased that the two councils now appear to be concerned that air pollution is a serious problem in Winchester.

“The recognition that it is substantially a traffic problem and the commitment to a movement and access study by the county council do augur well for a more rational approach than has been the case.

"Unfortunately, unless the movement study comes up with a strategy and a plan to achieve that vision, we are left with poor prospects that the scourge of pollution will be removed. "The city council’s Air Quality Action Plan is wholly inadequate to this task. The plan approved by cabinet ignored almost all responses from concerned individuals and virtually rubber-stamped the draft plan."