Hundreds of people have signed petition to the council calling on it to buy back Cavendish Square and sort out its problems.

The signatures were collected by the Parks and East Walcot Community Forum and given to the mayor Kevin Parry just before the Conservative cabinet was due to debate the matter in private.

The petition says: “We need the floor of the square re-laid and drainage put in, fencing which separates cars from pedestrians, and lighting sufficient to make the square safe at night.

“The handing over of publicly-owned land to private owners has meant loss of control. The private owners have shown contempt for the local community and are only interested in the rents.

“In the light of the council’s decision to buy back the Co-op, its car park and the pharmacy, we call on it to buy back the shops and the floor of the square owned by Lytton Road Ltd, in order to be able to create a decent and safe environment for the local community.”

The secretary of the forum Martin Wicks said: “Hopefully the cabinet will recommend purchase.

“Having the square back under its ownership will enable it to deal with the problems which the private owners were unwilling to resolve. If they do purchase it then the local community will be looking to be involved in discussions with the council about the improving the environment at the square, including banishing the infamous ‘Cavendish Square lake’ to the history books.

“If for some reason they decide not to purchase the area then the campaign will go on.”

Mr Wicks said the residents’ forum had been involved with the cabinet member for planning at the time, Garry Perkins, and added: “We hope we’ll be invited to a working party to help resolve some of the practical issues.”

Responding to Mr Wicks, council leader David Renard said: “We will be discussing the possible acquisition of property in Park South, but it’s a confidential matter and I can’t say more about the item.

“I can say we do want to find a resolution to the problems in Cavendish Square and we're working with the current owners to find a satisfactory resolution.”

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland wrote to residents last month saying the council had decided to buy back the land and Coun Renard agreed that the leadership was in favour of the move.

A spokesman at Lytton Road Ltd’s sister company JLA said nobody was available to comment.