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Councillors have agreed the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) will take over management of the medieval building in a deal which they say gives it a new and meaningful lease of life for residents and visitors to enjoy for generations to come.
SHBT will liaise with the retailers who were based in the Tron up until March in a bid to reopen it as soon as possible, operating in line with government guidelines.
Then the trust plans to undertake a feasibility study to develop a long-term vision for the building and sign a 125-year lease to carry out a capital project and manage the building into the future.
SHBT already manages two other historic buildings in the Capital under leases from the council. It has a 99-year lease on Riddle’s Court in the Lawnmarket, which was restored in 2017 as a Centre for Learning which includes a café, holiday apartment and offices. And it has a short-term lease on the Custom House in Leith while a feasibility study is carried out on its long-term future, with the building operating in the meantime as a creative hub and tenants ranging from a café and coffee roaster to a barber and men’s fashion retailer, as well as a number of artists, artisans and crafts people and the weekly Leith Market.
The decision by the council’s finance committee comes three months after Edinburgh World Heritage pulled out of its deal with the council which aimed ultimately at a multi-million pound refurbishment of the Tron to create a centre for Scotland’s World Heritage Sites and other UNESCO designations, such as the Creative Cities Network, geoparks and biospheres.
Finance convener Rob Munn said: “It’s great news that committee was unanimous in agreeing such a positive future for this historic landmark building in the heart of our Old Town. We're very much looking forward to taking this project forward now with SHBT, which has an impressive track record as a building preservation trust and charity.”
Vice-convener Joan Griffiths added: “The SHBT have proven to be extremely effective in recent years working in partnership with the council to provide a secure, viable and sustainable future for other historic buildings at risk, such as Riddle’s Court and Custom House. The Tron Kirk s future is in good hands.”
SHBT has said it recognises the council has no capital funds to contribute towards the restoration of the Tron Kirk in the current financial climate.
SHBT chair Maggie Wright said: “We welcome the committee’s decision to partner with Scottish Historic Buildings Trust to secure the future of Tron Kirk which has had a significant role for the people of Edinburgh since the mid-17th century. It is a huge vote of trust in the expertise of our director and staff. We share the council’s vision to breathe new life into this very special building and use our experience to create a legacy for generations to come.”