Residents have called on the council to address flooding in Patcham after E. coli was detected in a school field.

Campaigners pressed Brighton and Hove City Council’s city environment, South Downs and the sea committee for a flood mitigation and drinking water review after being hit by several storms.

The call for action comes as an independent assessment detected E. coli in Patcham Junior School’s water-logged playing field after heavy downspouts of rain earlier this month.

Parents reported that their children smelt of sewage, while others reported sickness bugs when the neighbourhood experienced flooding.

Southern Water stressed that E.coli is found “everywhere in nature” and that water must meet “stringent standards” before being put into supply.

Data from Southern Water obtained via a Freedom of Information request by campaigners revealed there have been over 280 sewage spills in Patcham since 2020, equating to an average of at least one incident a week over the last four years.

The spills were caused by blockages in the area.

Rebecca Kimber, co-lead of the Patcham Against Royal Mail, told the council committee: “It is neither normal nor acceptable for hundreds of children to navigate through raw sewage on their way to and from school, a grim reality regularly faced by students from Patcham High, Juniors and Infants.

“A prevailing concern is that the quality of our drinking water and the severity of both flooding and sewage leaks in Patcham is not being taken seriously enough.

“This is evidenced by the lack of intervention to halt Royal Mail’s proposal to concrete over a natural flood defence at Patcham Court Farm.”

A spokesman for Southern Water said: “Groundwater flooding is complex and challenging for all the agencies involved. Our role is to ensure our sewers run freely.

“We work closely with the council to try and provide early warning if groundwater flooding is imminent.

“Sewer blockages are the most common cause of pollution and are nearly always caused by ‘unflushables’, such as wet wipes and sanitary products being flushed away.

“Disposing of fat oil and grease from cooking down sinks also contributes to fatbergs.

“Only three p’s should go in the loo - pee, poo and paper - and cooking fat should go in the bin or be saved to feed birds.

Campaigners have claimed that Royal Mail’s plans for a new distribution depot on Patcham Court Farm would significantly exacerbate the existing flooding and sewage issues in the area.

Councillor Tim Rowkins, chairman of the council’s city environment, South Downs and the sea committee, said: “The situation in Patcham is neither normal or acceptable and we have to find a solution.

“We need to be working more closely with Southern Water on this and other issues around the city.”

A spokesman for Royal Mail said: “We are aware of resident’s concerns and have made substantial additions to the planning application to further ensure the groundwater is protected and flood risk is mitigated.

“It is important to note the proposals, in terms of flooding, reflect a significant improvement over the current site. Southern Water has reviewed the application and has noted no objections, subject to the following conditions.”