Business

CapitaLand fails to evict prestigious London art gallery

Britain's High Court has dealt a blow to Singapore's CapitaLand after it ruled that the property giant is not allowed to evict a tenant in order to redevelop a prime space in the heart of London.

The legal battle first went to a London County Court in January, which ruled in favour of CapitaLand.

The tenant, S Franses art gallery, appealed to the High Court, which earlier this month overturned the lower court's decision and ordered CapitaLand to pay its tenant's legal costs for both hearings.

S Franses, a world-leading London art gallery specialising in antique textiles, has occupied the ground floor and basement of The Cavendish hotel in London's art and antique district of St James for 25 years.

CapitaLand's subsidiary, The Ascott, bought the 180-year-old hotel for £158.8 million (S$283 million) in 2012.

The dispute began after CapitaLand rejected the gallery's request for a new 15-year lease in March 2015 - the property company wanted to redevelop the space into two retail shops to be rented out.

Many art galleries, specialist traders and antique dealers have been forced out of the area by rising rents. A proposal to protect them was passed last year to preserve the historic character of the district.

S Franses and another Jermyn Street tenant, bespoke shoemaker Foster & Sons, successfully applied to the local council for planning protection. These two properties now can be used only as an art gallery and for bespoke retail.

Art gallery owner Simon Franses took CapitaLand to court on Jan 16.

He has been adamant about staying as his business is well-established in the area, and significant investments have been made to house centuries-old textiles in a climate-controlled environment.

CapitaLand plans to appeal the latest decision.

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