LET’S work together to find the best option.

This is the plea of the Southampton Shipowners Association, who warn that millions of pounds could be lost from the local economy if an alternative isn’t found for Southampton City Council’s proposed up to £100-a-day chargeable clean air zone.

The group, representing businesses and employers from the local port community, says the city also faces the prospect of losing “a significant number of quality jobs”.

In a statement, Nick Jeffery and Ashley Jenkins, co-chairs of the association, even warned that group members have reported to them that hauliers are already making plans to shut down their city operations and relocate to other ports where there will be no charges.

However, the city council continues to stand by the charge, which it, and environmental campaigners, say will improve the quality of life for residents in the city.

Experts warn that more than 100 deaths a year in Southampton are attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution. The co-chairs said: “Firstly, may we make clear that our membership is formed of Southampton people. We live and work here; we raise our families and enjoy all that our wonderful city has to offer. We are not “faceless big business”, we are an integral part of the local community and we strive to promote and protect it.

“Air quality is of course extremely important to all of us, but after following the debates over recent months and considering all the proposals in detail, we feel it is time to make comment.

“One certain fact is that the council’s proposal, which has the potential to take millions of pounds out the local economy, will cost Southampton a significant number of quality jobs. It will deprive local people of the ability to provide for their families and pay their mortgages. Before taking such action there should be an absolute proven environmental case for doing so, but even SCC’s own data shows that there isn’t one.

“Our position is a reasoned one. We say let’s suspend the unseemly rush to make a commitment to a multi-million pound camera scheme so quickly – the council are intending to make a decision as soon as next month – but it is far too important a decision to rush into. Let’s continue to monitor closely.”

The pair added: “We are confident that the proven natural trend towards our city’s 100 per cent compliance by 2020/21 will progress and we will all be much the better for it. If, for some unforeseeable reason, the improving trend of recent years were to unexpectedly reverse, then go for it – but before we destroy Southampton jobs – let’s see the proven evidence first.

“We really can have jobs, prosperity and clean air; they are not mutually exclusive. The fact is we are already well on course to achieving it and without charges. Like a good Master Mariner, we just need to hold our course and be measured and considered in our approach.”

To take part in the consultation, visit: http://www.southampton.gov.uk/council-democracy/have-your-say/clean-air-consultation.aspx