THE Christmas lights are now on in Camden Passage, but for some dealers this will be their last festive period in the London antiques thoroughfare.
Over the last few months, landlords Octagon Assets, who have purchased a number of shops in Islington, have given notice to some of their tenants and issued large rent rises on others. At least 12 shops in Camden Passage are facing either closure or a rent hike of up to 70 per cent.
Rosemary Conquest of number 27, who deals in painted French furniture, will be leaving Camden Passage on December 20. Octagon Assets purchased the premises earlier this year and subsequently used a break clause in the contract, introducing a new lease at a greatly increased rate.
A similar situation was the case at number 25, where 20th century furniture dealers Origin were offered a new lease arrangement by Octagon that leaves them considering their future in the Passage.
Octagon have also given six months notice to vintage fashion dealers Cloud Cuckoo Land, who will be leaving Camden Passage after 24 years next May. Octagon, who bought the premises about a year ago, have given no opportunity to renegotiate the lease, as they plan to redevelop the property. Chrissie Harper of Cloud Cuckoo Land was told by her solicitors that she may be entitled to compensation.
Annie Moss of Annie’s Vintage Costumes at number 12, who has traded in Camden Passage since 1975, has also had a rent rise from Octagon. She previously paid £16,500 a year, but this has now jumped to £28,500. However, she told ATG that her real gripe was that Octagon want to charge her back rent from January 2004, a time when the premises were owned by her previous landlords Noble House Group. She plans to fight this decision.
“We can’t afford that kind of increase, so I don’t know what the future holds,” she said. “It’s absolutely clear to me that the new landlord wants me out.”
Dealers in Camden Passage have also reported great difficulty in trying to get in touch with Octagon. However, ATG understands that Octagon is part of a larger property development firm, the Canary Wharf-based Yianis Group. Their website homepage describes them as “a company that has the expertise and perception to develop passé, defunct buildings into vogue, trendy accommodation for today’s lifestyle”.
When ATG contacted them, Yianis refused to comment on whether they own Octagon Assets or they have any involvement with Camden Passage.
The antiques community in Camden Passage has come under threat in recent years. Last year, 40 antique dealers were evicted from the Georgian Village antiques centre and, in their place, planning permission has recently been granted for a new Reiss fashion chain store.
Some of the more vocal traders have launched a campaign to preserve Camden Passage as an antiques market. They have sent round a petition calling on the council, the government and the London Assembly to do all they can to protect the heritage of the area.
In a separate development, three furniture dealers in the basement of The Mall in Camden Passage were also given notice to leave late last month. However, Neil Jackson, who manages the centre, said that their aim was to simply diversify the antiques on offer from 23 dealers in The Mall.
Property company London & Associated Properties PLC bought The Mall in September.
“Any new incumbents in The Mall will be antiques related,” said Mr Jackson. “The new owners want to introduce a different feel to the centre. There has been no increase in rates and The Mall will continue as an antiques centre for the foreseeable future.”