THE indoor market at the Tron Kirk can carry on trading through the Festival after council chiefs agreed a two-month extension of the lease.
The historic former church in the Royal Mile is earmarked to be converted to a visitor centre by Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH), but is being let out on a short-term basis until plans and funding for the project are finalised.
Last year the city council, which owns the building, planned to re-advertise the lease on the open market once the agreement with existing leaseholder David Coutts ran out.
But Mr Coutts, who has operated a market there since 2014, threatened legal action and the council backed down.
The lease expires on August 8 and it is understood council chiefs considered a number of options, including leaving the building empty, placing it on the open market for lease or negotiating directly with the market stall holders.
Following a consultation by officials, involving the leaders of the party groups, the council has now approved a two-month extension, but it is not clear what will happen after that if – as seems likely – EWH is still not ready to take over the building.
However Mr Coutts is keen to keep on the temporary lease and hinted at fresh legal action unless the council changes its mind.
He said: “If the council wants to shut it down on October 8 and put over 100 people out of work they will face a serious challenge.”
He said he understood EWH were able to take over the venue – which currently attracts up to 3000 visitors per day – as soon as it was ready.
But he argued he should not lose the lease, leaving the building empty. “It is our position, it should continue on a month-to-month basis.”
Deputy council leader Cammy Day said he hoped EWH could move in soon.
He said: “We want to support local traders through the Festival period and we will achieve that through this short-term extension.
“I hope Edinburgh World Heritage will move quickly with their business plan for the future of the Tron.”
City Centre Tory councillor Joanna Mowat said she wanted the Tron to remain open and was happy to have it operating as a market.
But she claimed the delay over forming a new administration following the council elections had made the situation more difficult.
A council source said there were other interested parties who wanted to explore a potential lease.
A spokesman for Edinburgh World Heritage said he could not comment on what stage the project was at. But he said: “We are in ongoing discussions with our partners, Historic Scotland and the council, about the right solution. It is a complex project. As a building it represents a challenge.”