Community spirit helps save popular Herne Hill florist from closure

A popular Herne Hill florist was saved from demolition following a huge community backlash against Network Rail’s controversial plans for a new substation.

Earlier this month, Network Rail informed Elaine Partleton, 64, they wanted to move her shop to install an electrical substation to supply new Railton Road units.

However, after support from the community and Lambeth councillor Becca Thackray, plans to move The Flower Lady, located in the old Victorian coal house, were rescinded last Friday.

“I’ve never had this community spirit before,” said Ms Partleton.

“It’s been overwhelming, last Thursday I had to go home because I was in tears.

“I don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for their support.”

The community backlash had led to support from residents including food critic Jay Rayner and a petition, which is now close to 2,000 signatures.

Network Rail’s proposal was to demolish her premises next to Herne Hill station and build a new five-metre square substation.

Ms Partleton who has been in Herne Hill for a decade, was informed that she would be offered a new shop away from the station but at double her current rent and into an unfurnished property.

“They’re [Network Rail] absolutely ruthless.

“They’ve got no care about people’s communities, people’s livelihoods, people’s businesses,” said Ms Partleton.

The new units on Railton Road had been planned for two-and-a-half years, however Cllr Thackray claimed they were told that due to unforeseen problems with the contractors, a new sub-station would be needed.

Network Rail will now be reviewing other areas to install the sub-station, which has been deemed essential for the new builds.

“They poke around, take photos and don’t really seem to pay much attention to their responsibility as landlord and their reputation,” said Ms Thackray.

“Sanity prevailed thanks to a local campaign.”

In order to try and protect the Station Square area, the Herne Hill Society has submitted a Conservation Area plan which has been acknowledged by Lambeth council.

Herne Hill Society chair, Colin Wight, said: “Elaine is certainly one of the best known and most popular traders in Herne Hill.

“And it obviously helps that she’s been established for so long in an area that’s seen many changes over the last few years.

“But I think the community would have come to the defence of any of our independent traders in a similar situation.”

Network Rail were approached for a comment but did not respond.

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