PUBLICAN Kenny Waugh has welcomed a city council move to renew his controversial lease to use a historic former church as a licensed festival venue despite extra conditions.
Community groups and two city centre councillors had argued the lease for the Tron Kirk in the High Street should be advertised on the open market to allow other uses for the grade A listed building to be considered.
But the council’s policy and strategy committee instead voted to renew the lease, which Mr Waugh has had for the past two years, subject to new conditions.
The decision was referred to next week’s full council meeting by Conservative and Green councillors for final approval. Under the proposal, Mr Waugh would pay £20,000 a year to use the Tron as a venue during the summer and winter festivals for the next two years.
He would be required to obtain all “change of use” permissions and listed building consents in advance, as well as fitting a disabled ramp and toilet.
The conditions also state the premises will be available for use by other groups outside of the festivals.
Mr Waugh said he was happy to co-operate with the council and other groups which wanted to use the building.
“I’m happy with the conditions,” he said.
Mr Waugh added that he did not plan anything that would require listed building consent and claimed change of use should not be a problem.
Historian Stewart Wilson, who organises Old Town Week, said there were a lot of other groups interested in using the Tron, but there was no reason why everyone could not be accommodated.
“I want to see lots of events and happenings to keep it all viable,” he said.
But Tory councillor Joanna Mowat, who said the building’s use as a licensed venue had led to noise complaints, said she still wanted to see the lease advertised on the open market.
She claimed the conditions on change of use attached to the new lease – although designed to alleviate concerns – might prove counter- productive.
Cllr Mowat said: “It may be they are not able to fulfil these conditions and so the building ends up staying empty, which is not what we want. People really appreciate and love having access to the Tron, but there are other uses that would not require changes in planning conditions and would not have the same issues that have arisen.
“The council should have an opportunity to look at that via a marketing exercise.”
The lease on the Tron is only for the next two years because the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust is due to take over the building in September 2015 to turn it into a visitor centre.