Campaigners living near a town centre cement factory reacted with mixed emotions after environment watchdogs announced they were to pursue a prosecution against it.

The Environment Agency is prosecuting the company, now called Cemex, for the emission of a huge plume of dust from the site last year. Campaigners against the factory, formerly called Rugby Cement, said the prosecution was "too little, too late".

Residents in Long Lawford and Church Lawford, Rugby, woke on October 15 to find their homes and cars covered in a gritty sediment.

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The Environment Agency announced the prosecution after commissioning a MORI poll on residents' satisfaction with their

surroundings. Seven out of ten people felt the cement works had at least some effect on air quality in the local area, and more than two-fifths mentioned it as a main environ-mental issue.

Those living close to the cement works were most likely to mention it as an issue, with dust from the works being the most common concern.

A fifth of respondents raised conc erns about the burning of hazardous materials, including tyres and other chemicals.

Smoke and emissions from the plant, health issues and even the appearance of the site were also raised, as well as traffic congestion and emissions from vehicles.

Campaign group Rugby in Plume has campaigned against the plant for five years.

Lillian Pallikaropoulos, from the protest group, said: "This is just a propaganda exercise by the Environment Agency.

"Even if the prosecution is successful it will be no more than a slap on the wrist for Cemex."

The intention to prosecute was announced at the Rugby Cement Community Forum on Monday.

The company is charged with two offences under the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000.

Area Environment Manager, Paul Quinn, said: "Our decision to prosecute Cemex over an incident on or before 14 October 2005 illustrates our determination to regulate firmly and fairly.

"The case is expected to be heard at Rugby Magistrates' Court. We are awaiting a date from the court."