NEWS of defiant swimmers taking a dip in the controversial Gullet Quarry has sparked a heated debate.

The Malvern Gazette revealed last week that people were ignoring stringent safety advice and flocking to the Malvern Hills beauty spot for a swim during the heatwave.

And the story appears to have split public opinion, with some highly critical of the “idiots” putting themselves in danger while others believe people have a right to enjoy the water at their own risk.

Police are launching a crackdown on bathing at Gullet Quarry, warning offenders could be prosecuted for breaching bylaws, while firefighters and ambulance staff are urging people to stay away.

But not everyone agrees with the authorities’ official stance and instead claim the “nanny state” is over-reacting to safety concerns.

Hugh Williams took to Facebook to write: “How many people die every year in horse riding accidents, mountain climbing, abseiling and any other extreme sports? Let them swim.”

Sally Nall added “nobody would go walking or hiking, or drive, just in case they got into difficulty and needed rescuing” while Thomas Smith said “don't see the problem as long as the place is treated with respect”.

Katie Bradley added: “Swim at your own risk - if you’re an adult, surely you have a right to have a choice in the matter. I personally wouldn't swim there but if people want to why not? More people were killed by eating chicken last year and that doesn't mean we have all stopped eating it.”

But many more members of the public lambasted the swimmers for being irresponsible.

Millie Milward commented on Facebook: “Unfortunately I'm one of the people that has pulled out bodies from these places and it's really not nice. It amazes me the ignorance of some people despite efforts made from councils to warn about the dangers.”

Liza Nicol wrote “cold water kills - until people learn this and become educated there will be more deaths” while Jen Clarke said “swimmers should be charged and fined, they make children and young people think it's ok and it's not”.

Vikki Emery added: “The point is that people swimming there are not only putting their own lives in danger but the lives of people that may have to rescue them.”

Bathing in Gullet Quarry is illegal under the Malvern Hills Conservators’ bylaws and breaching these regulations can attract a fine of up to £500.

In 2013 Justas Juzenas, 22, of Ross-on-Wye, and Russell O’Neill, 17, of Worcester, died at Gullet Quarry in July after getting into trouble in the lake. The deaths happened within a week of each other.

Three other people have died there since 1995.

Recently police have been visiting the quarry regularly alongside the conservators’ wardens and firefighters in an attempt to deter rule breakers.

All three organisations are strongly urging people to stay away.