DEALERS at Antiquarius say they are “devastated” after learning that they could be evicted within the next few months. It emerged last week that the landlords of the West London antiques centre have signed an agreement which will see the premises on the King’s Road, Chelsea become an American fashion chain store as early as this summer.
Around 30 traders remain in the Grade II listed building. Since it was purchased by the retail property investment company London & Associated Properties (LAP) in 2006, their leases have been cut from annual licences to month-on-month agreements.
ATG understand that two meetings took place where LAP’s planning consultants invited representatives from the Kensington and Chelsea Residents Association and local trade groups – but none of the dealers – to hear their plans for the building.
It appears LAP have agreed to lease the premises as a single unit to the clothing chain Anthropologie, who have more than 100 stores in the US and hope to have between 20 and 40 stores in Europe within five years.
It is thought that the deal will see Anthropologie work alongside English Heritage in carrying out restoration work on the iconic 1920s building, and approaches are being made to gain the approval of the property freeholders Cadogan Estates.
A spokesman from LAP’s lobbying and PR consultants told ATG that an agreement had been signed to lease the premises as a single unit, but he added that the details were confidential. He said the new clients were not named at the meetings.
“This is part of a process to ensure the future of a 100-year-old building and we have been engaged in a long consultation with the council, residents and local trade,” he said.
Although the council have twice rejected LAP’s plans to redevelop the premises, he said they would shortly be presenting a new application for Listed Buildings Consent which they were confident of getting approved.
When asked about the effect on the heritage of the area and the livelihoods of the dealers, he said: “Like all tenants in these situations, they will have to look for alternatives. Markets have been relocated before and dealers can collectively come forward and put themselves out to letting agents. There might be opportunities now with the state of the current commercial property market.”
When ATG asked Kensington and Chelsea council for a response, they released a statement saying: “Unfortunately the council has no control over what sort of retail user owns or occupies the building.
“Listed Buildings Consent will be required for any works that affect the architectural or historic interest of the building. So while we will have control over physical alterations, we don’t have control over the use of the building by a different retailer.
“In planning terms, use for the sale of antiques or for clothes is regarded as one and the same thing. That is not a local policy – it is dictated by national government.”
When ATG contacted the London Mayor’s office, a press officer said that they could not comment on individual property cases in local areas despite Boris Johnson’s pledges to support small businesses and protect London’s heritage.
It has been reported elsewhere that the local resident’s association have now agreed to support LAP’s plan.
Hazel Smith of the King’s Road Trade Association said: “It’s a crying shame to lose the dealers but you can understand a landlord trying to make a building more viable by putting it to a modern usage.”
“But it’s also important to think of the people involved – they not only sell their jewellery and antiques but they do repairs, valuations, probate and they serve local needs and are part of the community.”
She also said that if the building had to become a chain, there were worse candidates she could think of than Anthropologie.
Four or five of the dealers at Antiquarius are members of the dealers’ association LAPADA. Fiona Ford of Lapada said: “We are of course concerned for our members affected, but also for the other dealers based there. We are deeply saddened that one of the oldest antiques centres in London is in such danger and we will continue to support them in any way we can.”
“The landlords have badly treated the dealers who are in such an unenviable situation. If they are to be evicted then we hope they are given proper notice.”
ATG’s attempts to speak to Anthropologie Europe proved unsuccessful.
• Meanwhile, both the former Chenil gallery on the King’s Road and The Mall antiques centre in Camden Passage, which are also owned by LAP, stand empty.
The public inquiry into LAP’s plans to redevelop The Mall as an outlet for the Jack Wills store finished on January 20. Around 20 people attended to oppose the plans and a decision is unlikely to be heard before the spring.
Mike Weedon of the Camden Passage Association told ATG: “The sign ‘The Mall Antiques Centre’ is still up, so there is hope. We don’t want it to become another fashion chain store and we will continue to fight.”
By Alex Capon