Work to bulldoze a memorial garden and replace it with gravel has been halted after the controversial plan sparked outrage.

Last week diggers moved into the memorial at Parkside in Wimbledon Village and started ripping up its surrounding grassed area.

Councillor Andrew Judge, Merton Council’s cabinet member for environment, said the council could no longer afford to maintain the garden and replacing it with gravel would cost less to maintain.

But this week, the workmen unwittingly broke a through a water pipe causing further damage.

Outraged residents and councillors criticised the decision, which was carried out without a
public consultation.

Diana Humphries, who lives opposite the memorial in Parkside, said: "My dad and I are both elated but how stupid of Mr Judge to rush through these plans without consulting everyone.

"Surely he has wasted even more council time and money."

On Wednesday evening the council confirmed that they had suspended the work and that the garden would be returned to its former state.

Councillor Samantha George, who represents Village ward said: "This represents a victory for all those who wrote in to protest against this.

"Thank goodness that the council has finally come to its senses.

“I am delighted that the War Memorial Garden will be returned to its former glory for this year’s Annual Remembrance Service.”

The memorial, built in 1919, commemorates Wimbledon residents whose lives were lost while serving their country.

The leader of Merton Council, Stephen Alambritis, said he was not aware of the decision to replace the war memorial with gravel but, after raising the issue with the chief executive, insisted it had been made after consulting councillors and the mayor of Merton, David Williams.

Councillor Alambritis said: "We’re going to suspend these works and put back the grass and start the consultation all over again.

"That is the best way for everyone concerned.

"We’ve got a full complement of services for Remembrance Sunday across the borough and we’re still going ahead with the services on November 9th at Fair Green [Mitcham].

"Samantha George is wrong to accuse officers of being disrespectful.

"I want to be a leader that can step in and re-engage and can say ‘let’s look at this again’."