COUNCIL chiefs have backed down and agreed the indoor market at the Tron Kirk can continue for at least another year.
Controversial plans to advertise the lease for the historic Royal Mile building on the open market are to be scrapped. And the current lease – due to expire on Wednesday – will run on, allowing the traders to stay.
Leaseholder David Coutts had threatened legal action after the plan to invite tenders was announced.
He has not yet been officially informed of the U-turn, which is expected to be confirmed by councillors at a finance committee meeting next month, but council officials have told traders they are being allowed to carry on for another year.
Mr Coutts said: “I’m glad the council has come to its senses and the stallholders can move forward accordingly.”
The former church, which dates back to the 17th century, is earmarked in the long term to be turned into a visitor attraction by Edinburgh World Heritage. But until the necessary funding is secured the council has been leasing it out.
The finance committee nine days ago voted 11-2 to invite bids for the lease on the open market, despite an 11,000-signature petition calling for the market to continue. One potential alternative was a plan by the London Film Museum to use it as a shop selling merchandise for the likes of Harry Potter.
Current stallholders, who had invested in thousands of pounds worth of Christmas stock before the decision to put the lease on the open market, are breathing a sigh of relief following the change of heart.
Colin Hope, who runs one of the stalls, had been in talks with the council and was due to be offered a temporary lease of the market on behalf of all the stallholders when Mr Coutts’ lease expired next week. “It was almost a caretaker position until they were ready to put the lease out to tender.”
But he said he had been rung by officials who told him the offer of a temporary lease was being withdrawn.
“They said the arrangement with the current leaseholder was rolling on. We have been told we can carry on working until this time next year.
“The critical thing is the traders can continue to trade. They are now looking forward to getting stuck in and making a real go of the Christmas period.”
A council source said: “The proper procedures were not followed in this case. The very basic one was that you have to give 40 days’ notice for people to quit and August 31 was less than that.”
Mr Coutts claimed the council had ignored its own policies in its original decision. He said: “Thankfully after we took legal advice and challenged the council, they have done an about-turn. It’s great news for stallholders, local traders and market visitors alike.”
A council spokeswoman said: “We are currently investigating matters raised by the current tenant and a report will be considered by the finance and resources committee on September 8.”