ANGRY neighbours of a Stratton park blasted the parish council for causing flooding and urged them to take action to drain the water and prevent drownings.

A small crowd of people voiced concerns over safety and rising water during a heated public Q&A about the waterlogged state of Merton Field, where a pond was dug to tackle flooding but then the pond itself flooded.

Open spaces officer Oliver Saunders defended the decision-making which led to the soggy hole in the ground and suggested that a lot of possible damage had been prevented.

He said: “It looks dramatic and the proximity to houses is alarming but the clay bund stopped houses from being seriously inundated by water. People believe we were advised to tanker the water away but that is not the case, it was just an option and it’s not necessary.

“Thames Water is in the process of clearing out their overflowing storm drains and the pond’s levels have dropped by eight inches already. We hired a private company to help us monitor how much water is there and is coming in.

“We are still working on a long-term solution and no option has been ruled out. My favourite is to restore an old drain between the church and Foxley Close, which would give us the overflow drainage that we need. We just need to investigate how intact it is.”

The parish council clerk promised that risk assessments carried out before the hole was dug could be made available to the public, and that their insurers had not deemed the water feature a risk.

Kris Talikowski said: “No decision was run by this committee before digging the hole, it’s deplorable, and now we have a very serious health and safety risk to the public.”

Worried park visitors feared that small children and pets may wander off and drown in the water if no warning signs were up.

Mr Saunders added: “An open body of water is not a risk, you can see it well before you would see any sign. There’s no fence around the sea or rivers, they’re natural features of Earth.”

Eventually, it was agreed that metal signs would be installed to warn park visitors of potential deep water. A slide showing what would happen in the case of a serious storm alarmed neighbours who saw water appearing near their front doors.

Ingrid Howard said: “It would totally surround our house. I’ve been here 36 years and, apart from the flood in 2006, water has not been an issue until you dug that hole without any consultation.”

Another person said: “We asked for a small patch of ground to be repaired and now it’s worse than before. The bund is addressing a standing water problem that did not exist until now.”

Coun Teresa Page said: “We have tremendous sympathy for the stress you have been under.

Later in the meeting, councillors decided to drain the pond if it reaches a level considered dangerous. Coun Roger Smith said: “It’s one of the more embarrassing episodes for the council.”