A petition has launched to save a Herne Hill florist, after reports freeholder Network Rail wants to demolish the building to make way for an electricity sub-station.
Herne Hill’s station square has been undergoing redevelopment since 2016, when its range of business under the railway arches had to close and relocate.
The Flower Lady, which is based in a Victorian coal house, was unaffected by the building work, but owner and florist Elaine Partleton has now been told her business may have to move as Network Rail, who own the freehold to her building, had miscalculated its electricity supply for the revamped units further down the road.
Sixty-four-year-old Elaine, who lives in Streatham and has owned the shop by the station for a decade, says the first she heard about the plans was from a phone call on May 4, 2018.
She says that in a meeting the following Thursday, she and other business owners and Green councillor Becca Thackray even took Network Rail’s representatives on a tour around Herne Hill, pointing out more suitable sites for the sub-station, but a further planned meeting was cancelled by Network Rail and she has not heard anything since last week.
She told the News: “It has been totally, totally exhausting and overwhelming but I have had so many people in here, giving me advice and things for free to help.”
The petition has received the backing of Herne Hill resident and Guardian food critic Jay Rayner, who described florist Elaine Partleton as “wonderful.”
Neighbours in this corner of south London, pls have a look at this petition. It's to stop the current business run by the marvellous Elaine, our local flower lady, from being bulldozed by @networkrail https://t.co/hUNAUszgQk
— Jay Rayner (@jayrayner1) May 20, 2018
On May 12, 2018, The Herne Hill Society, a local campaigning and heritage group, published the following statement: ” The Herne Hill Society is very concerned to learn of Network Rail’s plan to demolish the Flower Lady Shop next to Herne Hill Station and to replace it with an electricity sub-station.
“The shop occupies a prominent position and forms an important part of the attractive mix of small businesses that make up the Herne Hill “village”.
“This is an area that has undergone huge improvement in recent years and the refurbishment of the Network Rail shops, once completed, will further enhance this.
“It seems thoroughly perverse to contemplate a development that will do damage aesthetically and commercially to the heart of Herne Hill. We are also concerned at the lack of meaningful prior consultation with the wider community.
“The flower shop provides a valuable local asset, the only one in the area. It is a business that Elaine Partleton, a very active and well-respected trader and member of our community, has built up over many years.
“We question whether alternative sites have been fully explored. Network Rail is a key participant in the community at the heart of Herne Hill and we would expect them to fulfil that role with proper regard and care for the wider interests of all in that community.”
Elaine says she is positive about the future, given the support shown from the Herne Hill Society and local Green councillor, Becca Thackray.
I’m not going anywhere,” she told the News; “As, I said to one of my customers the other day, I’ll even set up in your front garden rather than leave Herne Hill.”
A spokesperson for Network Rail told the News: “During work to refurbish our property on Railton Road, in Herne Hill, it emerged that there would not be enough power to supply all the revamped units. As a result, we needed to find somewhere to install a new electricity substation.
The most suitable location we could find was the unit currently occupied by a florist. We understood the upheaval that could cause and therefore we offered our tenant one of the similar sized and newly-refurbished units in the parade 20 metres away.
“We have met with our tenant and will review that option again, alongside other locations, before taking any further action.”