A SOUTHAMPTON MP has called for an investigation into what he described as “a disgraceful betrayal”.

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith has urged Southampton City Council to launch an investigation into why a planning application to fell trees at Marlhill Copse was not decided in a public meeting although it had sparked 50 objections.

The news comes as Southampton Airport, which owns the site, said work will begin on today.

Council accused of killing democracy over decision to chop down trees 

The council said the decision arose after “grave concerns” that residents could be seriously injured if immediate action was not taken. 

Campaigners said the city council denied people democratic rights.

They also said they feel betrayed as the city council had previously pledged to ensure that future plans for works on trees at Marlhill Copse would be discussed in public meetings.

But according to the city council planning portal a decision to axe five trees at the site was made by officers on May 5.

Mr Smith is now advising objectors to seek redress through the Local Government Ombudsman.

He added: “I think the council should immediately launch an investigation. The objectors have the right to go to the Local Government Ombudsman about what is a malpractice. It is certainly a betrayal of confidence. Once you put something in writing to them that in my opinion is a contract. You don’t make promises to people and then break them. That is a disgraceful betrayal especially because that was so controversial. There’s a democratic process.”

As previously reported, last year residents and members of Friends of Marlhill Copse, Extinction Rebellion and Friends of the Earth protested for months and marched through the city to object to initial proposals to cut 27 trees at Marlhill Copse.

The High Court revoked an injunction meaning work could go ahead.

City council leader Christopher Hammond said due to the pandemic a meeting of the planning committee could not be held earlier than May 20.

He said the decision was taken after the Chair of Planning, the opposition leader and a cabinet member were informed. 

Cllr Hammond added: “The public rightly expect politicians to be working together to keep them safe using all the facts at their disposal. Perhaps Royston would like to see a copy of the report before indulging in his bias against the Council? In a pandemic when public health is paramount, it’s disappointing to hear such a cavalier attitude to our residents safety.”

A spokesperson for Southampton Airport said the work on the five trees is “urgently required”  and will be completed by July 3.