While Southampton has recently celebrated being named ‘Best Airport in Europe’ for customer service excellence, there is an ongoing row over tree felling between Southampton Airport and local campaigners. The Airport is legally required to maintain trees near its runways for the purpose of air safety, but campaigners fear the airport’s bid to cut down nearby trees risks noise, pollution and climate change.
Southampton International Airport Ltd purchased Marlhill Copse woodland areas in August 2018 for £260,000 in order to plan the felling of at least 27 trees and reduction in size of a further 200 that were formerly protected by Tree Protection Orders. The purchase enables the bypassing of the City Council’s two previous refusals, in 1983 and 2003, to allow tree felling as a planning application is no longer required now that the airport owns the land.
A spokeswoman for Southampton Airport told the Daily Echo in March that the airport is working at plans to maintain the ancient woodland, and stated the following:
Although a large number of trees in the copse have been marked and may need some form of management, the vast majority of those trees marked are minor crown reductions which will not affect the trees.
Campaigners, who protested outside the Civic Centre in March, are concerned that if the move is given the go-ahead, it will see the loss of a beautiful woodland as well as allowing future expansion of the airport which will contribute to noise and air pollution. Campaigners include local residents from Townhill Park as well as other citizens and activists.
The Protect Marlhill Copse campaign stated in a recent website post:
It has become apparent that the trees are not a threat to air safety but an obstacle to the expansion of Southampton airport because the trees get in the way of the reduced take off angle required for heavier and more laden planes.
A petition opposing the tree felling has gained over 4,000 signatures and has reportedly been signed by the Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Peter Baillie, too.