No frills fitness chain PureGym WON’T now be coming to Thornton Heath because of a petty dispute between controlling leaseholders of Ambassador House which is set to end in court.
Worse still, the second choice Snap Fitness, a franchisee, who were just as keen to rent the former pub premises have also pulled out after visiting the office block building and being put off by its deteriorating state.
Chartered accountant Harry Kerai who purchased the 72 year lease in 2012 on what was The Flora Sandes pub with his brother as a pension investment has been caught in the crossfire between two millionaire property magnets.
When J D Wetherspoon activated the break clause, Harry had interest from several tenants and opted for PureGym because it was an established chain. In November Croydon Council granted change of use to turn the vacant pub into a gym and it was anticipated work would start almost immediately.
However, because of the Ambassador House complex leaseholder arrangements any change of use has to get consent from the other two leaseholders Lancashire based Acebench, owned by Yousuf Bhailok and Redwing Property owned by Pakistani businessman Sajid Bashir along with permission sought from the freeholder Network Rail.
Redwing gave consent but Acebench who are head leasee have withheld consent and sat on paperwork for months before passing it to Network Rail. Acebench have also issued Redwing with a Section 146 which is a forfeiture notice over improvements asked for by Network Rail without giving Redwing any notice of the works in what is believed to be a blatant grab for the building.
Meanwhile, Sajid Bashir purchased – prior to auction – the 69 year lease on Coral bookmakers, which is adjacent to the pub, for £350,000 in what is thought to be his own bid to take control of Ambassador House.
Now Harry who is still waiting for the court date for consent hearing is in the situation where he is losing money daily on premises that have now sat empty for months when they could have been occupied but instead have become a magnet for rough sleepers and street drinkers.
What’s even more frustrating for Harry is that he has done everything by the book, and is the kind of responsible landlord Thornton Heath is crying out for.
The former pub is securely boarded up with the alarm connected to the police and motion sensors with video footage linked to Harry’s phone which means the chance of squatters are virtually zero, unlike the situation in Ambassador House which isn’t secure and is being occupied.
Harry said: “It is extremely frustrating. Everyone has there own agenda and are not prepared to cooperate.”