AMBITIOUS plans to save the Custom House for the people of Leith have taken a huge step forward after the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) agreed in principle to lease it.
The city council bought the building from the National Museums of Scotland for £650,000 following a long-running community campaign to transform it into a maritime museum.
The new tenants are due to take up their lease from April 7, with the final terms of the agreement going to the Finance and Resources Committee in May.
Cllr Richard Lewis, Convener of Culture and Sport, said the move was “an important step” towards opening up Custom House to the Leith community, as well as to Edinburgh residents and visitors.
He added: “It is such a significant historic building and I’m delighted we have been able to save it for the people of Leith and Edinburgh.
“It is the oldest of its kind in Scotland having been built in 1812, and we will continue to speak with potential partners about subletting the venue in the short-term, as bigger scale developments take shape, so that public can access and explore the venue as soon as possible.
“The next steps are for the council to receive the keys and take ownership of Custom House in April and for missives to be signed by SHBT.”
Initial repairs and cleaning inside and out of the building will take place throughout the Spring to prepare the venue for the public.
A feasibility study will also be commissioned to consider the long-term use and development of Custom House.
John Campbell, chair of SHBT Board of trustees, said: “Although we are a small charity, we have a strong track record in saving important buildings at risk for communities across Scotland and we are delighted now to be involved in securing a future for the Customs House.
“Our first priority will be to make some repairs to the building and spruce it up so that pretty soon members of the public will be able access it.
“Its various rooms will be available for use whilst we develop the capital project from feasibility study through to completion.
“This is a very exciting project that will deliver a vibrant mixed use hub for the benefit of the people of Leith and beyond.
“A key element will be the presentation of selected artefacts and interpretation displays to highlight the historic importance of Leith as the gateway to Edinburgh and Scotland. Other uses may include offices, workshops and public rooms for meetings and events.”