A BATTLE has broken out over the future of a disused historic city centre church.
The Tron Kirk in the Royal Mile is set to be turned into a visitor centre by the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust – but conversion work will not start before autumn 2015.
And council chiefs are split over what should happen to the Grade A listed building in the meantime.
A temporary lease has allowed the premises to be used as a live performance venue with a bar/cafe during the Capital’s summer and winter festivals – despite having no toilets.
The city council’s economy committee voted last week to renew the lease with pub operator Kenny Waugh.
But residents have complained about excessive noise late at night and say the lack of toilets means the building is not suitable as a licensed venue.
And when the issue came to the finance committee, two city centre councillors, Tory Joanna Mowat and Labour’s Karen Doran, called for the lease to be advertised on the open market.
They argued a more appropriate use for the building could emerge. And already a group called Encounter Church has expressed an interest.
Councillor Mowat said: “It’s difficult to think of a more suitable use for a former church than religious assembly.”
Julie Logan, chair of the Old Town Community Council, said the building could be used for Old Town festival events, arts events and exhibitions.
She said: “As far as temporary uses go, there are a variety of things that could be done. And there’s a lot of interest from local groups who would be quite happy to do pop-up events in the space that would not compromise the longer-term use of the building.”
Ms Logan opposed renewing the lease. She said: “Running it as a pub is not suitable, even though it is only for six weeks in the summer and two weeks at Christmas and Hogmanay.
“The council is reviewing its licensing policy and one of the main issues in the consultation is over provision in this area.”
Green councillor Gavin Corbett also backed advertising the lease. He said: “I believe the decision is clear cut. Local businesses, the local community council and local councillors all feel that there are better uses for this iconic building than it being used as a licensed venue, opening late at night and with no in-house toilets.”
The issue is due to go to the council’s policy and strategy committee next month.
Mr Waugh could not be contacted for comment.