A CAMPAIGNER has hailed a ‘win for democracy’ after plans to axe trees in ancient woodlands were shelved.

The controversial scheme could now be discussed in public as city bosses confirmed a “procedural error” in the initial decision to approve the proposals. 

Southampton Airport, which owns the land at Marlhill Copse, said work to fell five trees at the site has been paused until June 23. 

Following a high court challenge a solicitor acting on behalf of campaigner Gareth Narbed said Southampton City Council will pay his client’s legal costs, but the authority refused to comment on this claim.

The council did confirm that the initial decision to allow the felling did not include an assessment of whether or not the felling of the trees would have a detrimental effect on the character of the woodland.

The controversy was taken to court after campaigners said the city council should have discussed the plans in public as previously promised. 


As reported, the proposals sparked 50 objections but civic chiefs and airport bosses said an urgent decision had to be taken by council officers as the trees pose a health and safety risk to the public and nearby properties. 

Southampton Airport has now said that the plans will be discussed by the planning committee at the city council on June 23. 

The local authority did not comment on this.

In a statement it said: “Following the issuing of legal proceedings, detailed analysis of TPO regulations established that the decision to allow the felling did not include an assessment of whether or not the felling of the trees would have a detrimental effect on the character of the woodland.
This was a procedural error that is not directly related to the proceedings brought against the council which was based on “legitimate expectation” of the decision being made by the PROW panel, and which the council maintains is defensible. 
“We have taken the view that such a procedural oversight would prejudice our defence and we have decided to concede the Judicial Review application, as proceeding to defend our position would involve a lengthy and costly court case which would most likely still not resolve the key issue of the safety of the trees.The land and the trees in question are owned by Southampton Airport, and we will be discussing with them how they want to take this forward. Our overriding priority has always been, and will continue to be to make sure users of the copse and residents living near the trees are safe.”

Campaigner Gareth Narbed, who took legal action against the council after branding the decision to allow the work as “undemocratic”, welcomed the latest news but said an investigation should still be launched. 

He added: “I’m irrelevant in all of this. It’s a win for democracy. The press coverage has been part of the whole thing.”

His solicitor Richard Buxton said the city council will pay Mr Narbed’s legal costs to date.  

But the authority neither confirmed nor denied the 

In a statement Southampton Airport said: “We can confirm that work on the trees at Marlhill Copse has paused until June 23, where the matter will go before Southampton City Council’s Public Rights of Way panel.
The area surrounding the trees is cordoned off to ensure that risk is minimised. Our aim here is to protect the safety and welfare of all those who live near these trees and visit the copse. 
“We are hugely disappointed and frustrated that we are still being prevented from doing that.”