CONTROVERSIAL work to axe trees in ancient woodland in Southampton will stop until next week.

Southampton Airport, which owns the land at Marlhill Copse, has confirmed that work to fell five trees at the site will not be carried out until Monday.

But the reason behind the decision has not been disclosed.

As previously reported, work at the controversial site started on Monday May 11 and it is expected to be completed in July.

The news comes as last week planning bosses at Southampton City Council gave permission for the work to go ahead.

But the council came under fire as the decision was not made in public despite 50 objections to the planning application.

Campaigners and opposition leaders called for an investigation as they said the process was “undemocratic”.

But both the council and the airport defended the move saying work is urgently needed as the trees pose a risk to the public.

In a statement issued last night a spokesperson for Southampton Airport said: “Our specialist tree surgeons climbed the pine trees yesterday to conduct ecological surveys and will be starting the work on the pines on Monday. We are near completing work on the Beech tree and the work this morning was to provide a specific habitat for bats and other woodland wildlife to make a home in. There are no works planned now until Monday, when we are scheduled to start on the pine trees. The copse is still open and we will not be closing it at this time. The trees that have been assessed as a danger to public safety are cordoned off to ensure that people can pass through the copse safely until that risk is removed.”

The news comes as civic chiefs have been urged to share the evidence used by officers to approve the proposals. Opposition leader Dan Fitzhenry previously said city council leader Christopher Hammond should apologise to residents.

It comes as last year residents campaigned against previous plans to axe 27 trees at the site.

The High Court revoked an injunction meaning work could go ahead.But as previously reported, a senior council figure had then told a campaigner that any future decision on works on trees at Marlhill Copse would be discussed in public by the planning committee. Cllr Hammond defended the latest decision made by officers as he said that a meeting of the planning committee could not be held earlier than May 20 and experts advised that waiting created “an unnecessary risk”. Cllr Hammond previously stressed that an emergency decision arose after “grave concerns” that residents could be seriously injured if immediate action was not taken.