Former Council Leader Denies Dismissing Flood Concerns

Stephen Alambritis says comments about people being 'alarmist' taken out of context

Councillor Stephen Alambritis
Councillor Stephen Alambritis

The former leader of Merton Council claims his comments on flooding concerns being “alarmist” have been taken out of context.

Councillor Stephen Alambritis made the comments at a planning meeting three days after floods affected businesses and homes in Raynes Park as a month worth of rain fell in just 90 minutes.

Flash flooding hit the area again this week after heavy rainfall – On Sunday (25 July) drains backed up for the second time in less than two weeks submerging roads in Raynes Park.

On Wednesday (28 July), Cllr Alambritis said, “I was referring to a planning application where bringing up the recent flooding was alarmist, it has been taken out of context.

“It is alarmist to use the recent flooding to apply to this application.

“Certainly flooding is important and should be addressed by the local authority, City Hall and Thames Water.”

Cllr Alambritis stepped down as leader of the council after 10 years in the job last year but remains a councillor for Ravensbury and is a member of the planning committee.

His comments came as part of discussion about plans to replace a house in Raynes Park with six flats along with two houses in the garden which were approved by the committee.

At the meeting on 15 July a local resident, Liberal Democrat councillor Simon McGrath and Conservative councillor David Dean all raised the issue of recent flooding in Raynes Park when raising their objections to the proposal.

But Cllr Alambritis responded, “I am concerned about the alarmist comments about flooding, once each year for the last five years.”

He added that the floods on 12 July was a month’s worth of rain in 90 minutes that affected the whole of London.

And Dave Ward backed up the former leader saying that floods on 12 July were not “major flooding”.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting service, Cllr McGarth said, “Residents were telling us there had been flooding but the report said we hadn’t had any flooding, they should listen to people on the ground.

“Cllr Alambritis is desperate to get things built and that comes through in his comments about flooding.

“The actual experience of residents is being ignored, and a couple of weeks later what happens? There has been more flooding.”

In response to a clip of the comments, posted on Twitter by community campaigner Mark Gale, one commenter said: “I can’t (maybe can?) believe the casual way they dismissed people’s real lived experience of filthy water coursing through their homes and threatening their safety.”

Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

July 29, 2021