SOUTHAMPTON civic chiefs are facing calls to quit after a “complete shambles” over controversial treeworks in ancient woodland.

Cllr Dan Fitzhenry, leader of the opposition at Southampton City Council, said either the politicians or the council officers behind the decision to approve plans to fell trees at Marlhill Copse should resign.

The news comes as on Wednesday the council confirmed a “procedural error” in the initial decision to approve the proposals.

City bosses stressed the decision was taken as the trees pose a health and safety risk to the public and nearby properties.

But Cllr Fitzhenry has urged the authority to immediately publish the evidence and launch a further investigation.

He added:”Based on what we have which is a clear breach of democracy and a huge cost and embarrassment to the council, either officers or politicians should resign because the council’s position has become untenable. The council’s reputation has been considerably damaged by poor decision and leadership. Either the advisor was wrong or the politicians have misled the public. There may be some people that feel that this is a distraction or not relevant but it is fundamental on how we operate as a city.”

The news comes as in a statement on Wednesday the council said that a detailed analysis revealed 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”.

The authority would not comment on whether the initial decision will be quashed and whether the council will have to pay the cost of a legal battle started by campaigners.

As reported, Southampton Airport – which owns the land – said the council’s planning committee will discuss the plans on June 23.

But civic chiefs did not confirm the claim and said they await an “anticipated application” from the airport regarding Marhill Copse and will consider it accordingly.

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith said the council “morally has no chance but to hear this application in public”.

He added: “It is a complete shambles. It is a demonstration of an incompetent council. I would call to Chris Hammond to consider his position because he has broken the trust with his electorate.Someone has to be held responsible.”

The city council said neither the leader nor officers will resign.

Cllr Hammond added: “Here we go again. When the rest of the city are out clapping our key workers and fighting a pandemic, it’s disappointing that our local Tory MP is spoiling for a fight with them. When considering the public’s health and their safety, it is the duty of elected politicians to consider the most authoritative, factual advice from experts. The experts advised works were needed to keep our residents safe. These aren’t the council’s five trees, its private land, but the risk to the public was real. Inaction would’ve been inexcusable.”