Residents are dismayed after a "huge" crater appeared beside an estate's latest housing scheme, with fears it will pose a major danger to children's safety.

Well over 100 people have signed a petition objecting to the "pond" which has been dug on land next to the Alderbrook development, in Arran Way, Smith's Wood.

Many are parents concerned about the drainage pit being excavated a stone's throw from a number of nearby schools, arguing it could put pupils at risk.

There are also worries that the site could be used as a "dumping ground" for rubbish or even a race track for the off-road bikers which plague the neighbourhood.

Smith's Wood resident and parish councillor Glynis Harrison, Cllr Mark Wilson (Green, Smith's Wood) and mum-of-three Elizabeth King, who raised the petition.

Meeting residents and ward councillors at the site last week, John Halton, from the North Solihull Partnership, the area's flagship regeneration project, tried to allay public concerns.

He insisted that the drainage pit complied with both national and local policy and, since it was designed to cope with extreme weather conditions, it would only fill with water after the heaviest rainfall.

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He also suggested that there could be a consultation on options for additional safety measures once work was completed but before the perimeter fencing was taken down.

Mum-of-three Elizabeth King, from nearby Mull Croft, has been raising support for a petition against the pit, knocking doors and asking other parents to sign.

The drainage pit in Arran Way, Smith's Wood.
 

"People are scared about what it is," said the 33-year-old.  "It's just not safe."

Another parent, whose children go to school just across the road, said: "I think it's a really stupid idea, there's two special schools and a primary school nearby.

"And who's going to be responsible for this?"

The signatures are due to be handed in at Full Council tonight (Tuesday).

Glynis Harrison, a Smith's Wood parish councillor, had also contacted the borough council after work started several weeks ago - fearing the feature was "an accident waiting to happen".

"I walked past and I had a chill running down my spine, thinking 'what on Earth is going on?'

"I'm not an expert on drainage but I don't know why we can't have tanks under the ground."

 

After the issue was also raised with borough councillors, Mr Halton - the Partnership's regeneration director - met with a small group of locals in Arran Way last Wednesday.

Work started on the Alderbrook development last year.

He was joined by engineers from Bellway Homes, the company currently working on the development, who explained the pit was designed to cope with a 1 in a 100 year plus flood, in line with Environment Agency requirements.

Mr Halton said that while the site might be described as "a pond" on plans this was something of a "misnomer".

 

"It will be planted with reedbeds ... it may be soggy to the foot, but it won't be a pool of water," he said.

"It's fully compliant with all the statutory requirements, through the planning process and through national policy.

"[But] I'm happy to come back and, before we put it into public use, see what additional things we can do to allay your concerns."

Although Cllr Jean Hamilton (Green, Smith's Wood) suggested there was still a lot of unease locally.

"Let's be honest about it, it will be a mud bath," she said.

 

The Alderbrook scheme, involving the erection of 51 homes, is part of the wider North Solihull regeneration project and was granted planning permission by Solihull Council in 2015.

Construction work had started last year, with the demolition of the area's old shops and gym.

Arran Way, in Smith's Wood, where the new housing scheme is being built.

Emails sent to Ms Harrison by council planning officers point out that similar drainage systems are used at a number of other sites locally, including the separate Bellway development at the junction of Birmingham Road/Windward Way.

 

A Solihull Council spokesman said:  "The drainage area residents are concerned about forms part of the site’s Sustainable Drainage System (SuDS).

"SuDS play an important role in helping to manage flood risk and are a national policy requirement on development sites, including where there are more than 10 homes being built, such as at Arran Way.

"The design was approved during the planning process by the council in its statutory role as the lead local flood authority.”