A LARGE number of dealers at Antiquarius in London’s King’s Road will have to quit the premises next year following the landlord’s decision to redevelop half the property.
As many as 50 may have to go when the owners of the antiques centre in Chelsea split the property in two, keeping roughly half the space for dealers, but using the other half, facing the King's Road, to create a new retail unit thought to be for an international chain.
The landlords, the retail property investment company London & Associated Properties (LAP), have issued notice letters but say they will endeavour to accommodate those who wish to remain in the smaller centre.
The trade space being redeveloped includes some of the 'prime' positions in the centre, including part of the King's Road frontage and a number of the window stalls that look onto Flood Street.
Since LAP purchased the centre from Atlantic Antiques last year, many dealers have felt uncertain about the future; 53 of the 70 dealers signed a petition in October asking the landlords to clarify the position regarding the advertising budget and their plans for Antiquarius.
None of the dealers affected by LAP's plans were willing to speak on the record. However, a handful are members of dealers association LAPADA, whose chief executive, Sarah Percy-Davis, told ATG: "This is very worrying news and we know that our members in Antiquarius are devastated. We are also aware that this is part of a sad progression of the closure of antiques centres in London, leaving those who are forced to leave Antiquarius and other centres with nowhere to go."
One dealer who was recently hoping to take a space in Antiquarius in order to deal in London for the first time was Northampton-based sporting pictures dealer Hugh Jolly. He told ATG: "I originally agreed a six-month lease with LAP, then I was told it would be cut to three, and then I was told that due to redevelopment plans the space was no longer available and so they returned my cheque last week."
The Antiquarius building itself is listed, which means it is subject to tighter planning laws than would otherwise be the case. LAP have not applied for planning permission to make the changes, but instead have submitted a request to Kensington and Chelsea council for a "certificate of lawful proposed use or development", which, if granted, would allow them to alter the internal structure of the property.
Planning officers are currently looking into this and, if rejected, LAP would then have to apply for planning permission to carry out the changes.
A council spokesman told ATG: "The council supports the idea of retail diversity in the borough and supports its small traders wherever it can. That's why we've taken steps to maintain Portobello. However, with regard to requests like this, they have to be decided case by case."
Sarah Percy-Davis said: "It would be nice to think that Kensington and Chelsea council, who have been so helpful with the problems faced by dealers in Portobello Road, could have some influence on landlords when change of use of premises is involved, especially when the character of such an important London street as the King's Road is at stake."
Antiquarius itself is amongst the oldest antiques centres in London, having attracted some of the most colourful dealers in the capital over the last 30 years.
Sadly the area has lost both The Chenil Gallery and the Chelsea Antiques Market, which both closed some years ago.
As well as Antiquarius, LAP own the Mall in Camden Passage, which they bought at the same time from Atlantic Antiques. Rogers Antiques was also included in the deal, but LAP have now sold that on.
When contacted by ATG, the centre manager of Antiquarius, Neil Jackson, was away on holiday and no one at London & Associated Properties was available for comment.
By Alex Capon