AN information centre which operated in the Tron Kirk for five years is bidding to return to the historic building, which faces D-day tomorrow.
The Grade A-listed former church in the Royal Mile was the base for the Old Town Information Centre from 2002 until 2007, when it was forced to move out to make way for a proposed redevelopment which never took place.
The centre’s director, Jan Henderson, said it had operated successfully and attracted around 500,000 visitors a year.
But despite the immediate future of the council-owned property being widely debated, he claimed his recent proposals to re-establish the centre have been ignored.
Edinburgh World Heritage Trust is due to turn the building into a visitor centre, but cannot start work on the project for two years. Councillors must in the meantime decide whether to renew a lease which has allowed the premises to be used as a licensed venue during the Festival and at Hogmanay or to advertise the lease on the open market.
Mr Henderson said: “We ran the Old Town Information centre in there very successfully – it made money and it was great for tourists, for residents and for other businesses.
“There was a small shop, but mainly we gave tourist information and sold tickets for all the major attractions in Edinburgh. The council threw us out because they were going to turn it into a super information centre, a cafe complex or whatever – but none of it came about. We have everything necessary to go straight in there and start where we left off.
“In the last few months we have submitted two proposals to the council’s finance committee, asking if they would consider letting us run the Tron as an information centre again. We asked them to get back to us with any comments they might have. They didn’t.”
The Old Town Information Centre is now based at St Giles’ Cathedral, but manager Charlotte Corstorphine said it was operating on a much smaller scale than when they were at the Tron Kirk. She said at the Tron, tourists had the bonus of being able to see the remains of Marlin’s Wynd – a 16th-century lane linking the High Street and the Cowgate – discovered in the basement of the building. She said: “We were giving historical as well as tourist information. Lots of people just want to walk up the Royal Mile and the Tron was right there and they could plan their day on the spot.”
The council said it could find no record of any recent contact from the Old Town Information Centre.
Finance convener Alasdair Rankin said: “We are always keen to hear suggestions and ideas from residents and businesses about how to make best use of our properties and would ask anyone to get in touch if they have concerns. Previous proposals to site the Old Town Information in the Tron Kirk did not provide a viable solution for the building and we are unaware of any newer, more developed plans. “
Publican Kenny Waugh, who had the lease to run the Tron a venue during the summer and winter festivals, hopes to have it renewed for another two years, but local groups have urged it should be advertised instead.