Leeds St James’s Hospital shopkeeper locked in lingerie legal battle

Markku Blackburn, who is involved in a legal dispute over a shop at St James's Hospital
Markku Blackburn, who is involved in a legal dispute over a shop at St James's Hospital
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A shopkeeper is locked in a legal battle – over the sale of women’s underwear and pyjamas at Leeds St James’s Hospital.

Markku Blackburn, from Beeston, was given exclusive rights to sell lingerie and nightwear at The Clothes Shop – an outlet he opened in the Gledhow wing in 2011.

But he claims his business lost tens of thousands of pounds in potential profits after another shop began selling similar items. Assura, which runs the shopping centre, refused to take action, denying Mr Blackburn’s lease agreement had been breached.

Now, after he stopped paying rent in protest, the company has axed his contract and ordered him not to re-enter the shop.

Mr Blackburn, 38, said: “It feels like they are playing with us – they are a big company and we are nothing.”

Mr Blackburn and his father, Charles, operating as Blackburn and Son, opened the shop in January 2011 but complained to Assura within weeks about the apparent sale of lingerie and nightwear by another business. They continued paying rent until November 2012, but then stopped after failing to receive a resolution to the issue.

The following April they removed their stock from the shop, leading to a failed court bid by Assura to have their business wound up. Mr Blackburn said the company had repeatedly ignored their attempts to mediate. He discovered last week the lease had been terminated.

“They can’t just make up the rules to suit them,” he said.

Assura denied the exclusivity clause had been breached and said Mr Blackburn had accrued “considerable” debts by ending rent payments. A spokeswoman said the situation could not go on “indefinitely”, adding: “The landlord took the decision to forfeit the lease and peaceably retake possession of the retail unit. This will enable the unit to be re-let.”

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