Legal battle over lease to be thrashed out in the courts

A Far Eastern property giant is embroiled in a legal dispute with a historic London art gallery.

Singapore-based CapitaLand will be attending a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice this month, arguing its case for evicting Franses Gallery from the Cavendish Hotel. The gallery has occupied premises at the West End hotel for the past 25 years.

A spokesman for the business, which was established in the capital by Sidney Franses in 1909, said the dispute originated with the request by the gallery for a new 15-year lease, under the (United Kingdom’s) Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.

This request was opposed by landlord on one of the grounds set out in the act.

“Unfortunately, the landlord has taken an extremely aggressive approach to the matter and seeks nothing less than immediate eviction. The gallery is fighting to maintain its presence and continuing business and archive and other services.”

CapitaLand’s subsidiary, The Ascott Ltd, has run The Cavendish since 2012 and is understood to have previously wanted to have replaced the gallery with two fashion outlets.

Gallery director Simon Franses said that his business was fighting a “David and Goliath” battle to remain at its current premises.

“Capita seem unaware that this is the heart of the St James’s Art District, the world’s greatest concentration of art expertise,” he said. “It always seemed irrational to try to replace us with fashion outlets, which are against the council’s stated policy.”

CapitaLand did not want to comment at length while proceedings were ongoing, but managing director for Europe, Alfred Ong, said: “Franses’s leases have come to an end and an application for their renewal is the subject of court proceedings.”

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