May 24, 2024 3 min read

The Leadmill team claim legal win following adjournment of eviction case

Sheffield venue The Leadmill yesterday declared on social media that it has “won its first battle in court”, after eviction proceedings being pursued by landlord The Electric Group in a Leeds court this week were adjourned. However, its thought the case could be back before a judge later this year

The Leadmill team claim legal win following adjournment of eviction case

The management team at Sheffield venue The Leadmill posted an update yesterday on their legal battle with their landlords The Electric Group. The dispute reached Leeds Business & Property Court earlier this week, but was adjourned at the request of lawyers working for the current management team. 

Taking that adjournment as a win, the venue posted on social media, “We have won our first battle in court and taken one step closer in our bid for survival in the eviction battle against the landlord, with the judge saying he believed we had ‘a real prospect of success’”. 

The Electric Group - which runs a small network of venues around the UK - wants to take over the direct management of The Leadmill, having acquired the building that houses the venue in 2016. The current management team, headed up by Phil Mills, have refused to leave, despite their lease expiring, resulting in the eviction proceedings that reached court this week. 

At the very least, the adjournment of the eviction case means Mills can continue operating the venue in the short term. Had there been a ruling in The Electric Group's favour this week, it could have had control of the building within three months. 

When discussing the proposed adjournment - justified on the basis that the dispute needed more court time than originally scheduled - lawyers for The Electric Group said that that could push the whole thing back to summer 2025. 

However, the judge, when granting the adjournment, said that he wanted the case to be heard as quickly as possible, and later this year is seemingly now an option. 

The social media post from Mills’ team also compares statements shared with the court by The Electric Group and its CEO Dominic Madden to previous comments made in the media. 

It claims that, while Madden has previously stated that - once in control of the building - he intends to retain the venue’s current staff and continue to support various community projects that utilise the venue, a witness statement says otherwise. 

“Our staff were at the hearing”, the post states, “and were shocked to hear the news that Dominic Madden is intending to destroy their livelihoods”. 

“Madden also confirmed”, it goes on, “that he would be evicting our upstairs studio workshop users if he succeeds, putting an end to the tenancies of those still working from The Leadmill, including the artist who has been in residence for 38 years, as well as the charitable and socially beneficial organisations and start-up businesses, which The Leadmill has nurtured throughout our time at the premises”.

The Electric Group is in a somewhat tricky position, being simultaneously criticised by Mills of threatening the future of an important grassroots music venue, but also of unfairly exploiting goodwill built up by Mills and his team by continuing to operate a grassroots music venue in the Leadmill building. 

The unfair exploitation of goodwill was a key part of the legal arguments presented by Mills’ lawyers earlier this week, who claimed that that unfair exploitation breaches human rights law.

If The Electric Group successfully evicts Mills, an entirely new business will take over the management of the building, which would also undergo a refurbishment. And that would definitely have an impact on staff and users of the studio workshop. 

However, it’s thought that the intent remains for The Electric Group to run a venue with a similar ethos to the current Leadmill operation, and that it would ultimately seek to reemploy current staff and reengage the community groups currently connected to the venue. 

Either way, in the months ahead, Mills and his team intend to continue their fight to stay in the building. Their social media post continues, “In light of the human rights arguments that are now being considered, this case does not just involve The Leadmill. There are one and a half million business tenants in the UK who are at risk of having the goodwill of their business expropriated, their employees’ livelihoods terminated”. 

It concludes, “The Leadmill intends to ensure that the law recognises such actions are not only a violation of the well-established principles of human rights law, but that the next government takes steps to prevent such morally bankrupt business methods from occurring in the future”.

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