A HISTORIC church in the heart of the Royal Mile that has lain largely unused for decades is set to play host to a Victorian-style market under new plans to revive the venue.
Proposals for the A-listed Tron Kirk would see it house up to a dozen stalls selling pottery, jewellery, tweed and whisky as part of a masterplan to convert the iconic venue into an Old Town retail hub.
Plans by antiques dealer David Coutts have been lodged at the City Chambers and will include tourist information points – an echo of the building’s former use at the turn of the millennium.
The “non-invasive change of use” would see Mr Coutts take over the management of the venue until September 2015 when the lease would expire and the building returned to the council.
It comes as city chiefs approved plans to host music, theatre, art galleries and retail events in Tron Kirk during the Christmas period as well as the summer Jazz and Edinburgh Fringe festivals until 2015.
Edinburgh World Heritage Trust is due to transform the building into a visitor centre but cannot start work before autumn next year.
Bill Cowan, planning adviser for the Old Town Association, said the Victorian market concept could prove a smash hit and become the “antidote to all the tartan tat” outlets on the Royal Mile. “I think this a very good idea and exactly the right option for that building at the moment,” he said.
“The proper use would be as a tourist information exchange with booking office because it’s not actually a very big building. An antiques fare on the Royal Mile is exactly what visitors’ want.
“There is a problem on the Royal Mile with not enough support given to other forms of entertainment, attractions and retailing.
“The attitude in the council is changing though.”
In recent years the building has been used as a venue for pop-up bars during the festival, and Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, raised fears about temporary leases damaging the fabric of the building.
“The bars that were there were doing damage to the fabric by chipping in things to hold the bar steady,” she said. “I have complained to councillors and archeologists. If you are going to allow these things you have to respect the building or else you get more problems should anyone take it on.”
Kirk is a focal point for visitors
TRON Kirk was built between 1636 and 1647 and has been in council hands since 1972.
It houses the excavated remains of the medieval Marlin’s Wynd, which was uncovered in the Seventies.
The kirk was let for use between 2000 and 2006 as a visitor information centre. It became a Fringe venue and bar during last year’s festival season – despite lacking indoor toilets – and will be used in the same way this summer.
A study for the city council concluded that if the building was brought back to use by Edinburgh World Heritage, it would “provide a focal point for visitors to the Edinburgh World Heritage site and enable the finest medieval archaeology in Edinburgh to be viewed by visitors”.