Landlords using tenancy act to close local store could herald “the end of indies”, warns retailer.

A retailer being forced out of business by his landlord has warned other convenience stores that they could be booted out too.

Sunny Patel, owner of Sunny News in Southfields, south London, has had his business lease terminated under the Landlord and Tenant Act.

The legislation grants Patel’s landlord permission to end the lease, which he has held since 1987, in order to develop the property into a residence for personal use.

Speaking to Retail Express, Patel said property owners in high-value areas are “looking to cash in on” the profits being offered by these conversions.

“I fear that landlords are starting to feel they can’t market their properties as shops, so will seek permission to turn them into residential properties,” he said. “This comes at the expense of the hardworking retailer.”

Despite initially paying £77,000 for the lease and business nearly 30 years ago, he has been offered just £15,000 in compensation.

As well as his store, retailers in the nearby parade of shops have also been served notices that their shops are to be downsized to partially convert the buildings into residences.

In an attempt to save his store, Patel is now going to the high court, which will hear his case against the Planning Inspectorate, and the county court, which will hear Patel’s case against his landlord.

He is being backed by a huge amount of support from the local community. His customers have sent more than 400 objection letters and a petition to the council, and Sunny News has been granted Asset of Community Value status.

“If I fail with all of that support, I think we can say goodbye to local independents,” he said.

Matthew Williamson, head of retail valuation at Christie & Co, said he had seen a number of retail sites and properties gain interest from developers. “It’s often because there is a way they can be used to bring in higher financial returns,” he said and added that those in Patel’s position should seek specialist legal advice.

James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS, called upon the Government to recognise the economic and social impact convenience stores have on their communities.

“Where landlords are seeking to change properties from retail to residential use, local decision makers must take into account  the impact that losing a  convenience store will have on the local economy and the character of the community,” he told Retail Express.

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