TRADERS at the covered market in the Tron Kirk are threatening court action against the city council after it decided to advertise the lease of the building on the open market.
The stallholders will seek compensation for £37,000 worth of Christmas goods they bought on the understanding they would be allowed to carry on trading in the historic Royal Mile building. They will also call for the council to meet the cost of redundancy payments.
Leaseholder David Coutts said the decision by the council’s finance and resources committee – by 11 votes to two – to invite bids rather than renew the existing lease was “astonishing”.
He said: “There were 11,000 signatures on the petition asking for the lease to be extended as it is, but the council took a decision to ignore the views of all these people.”
He said there were 63 jobs at stake. “Our lease will finish on August 31 and the council has effectively voted to put 63 people on the dole. It’s scandalous.”
In the long term, the former church is due to be handed over to Edinburgh World Heritage Trust for renovation.
Mr Coutts said he had paid £36,400 for the first year, installed a new floor at a cost of £100,000 and agreed a new lease for £56,000.
He said: We were offered a lease and accepted the terms and accordingly the traders prepared for Christmas, including the purchase of stock valued at £37,000 and promising continuity of employment for over 40 people. Now suddenly they have all been kicked in the face.
“We will be raising an action at the Sheriff Court prior to the termination of the lease and also seeking a judicial review. We’re pursuing the council for compensation for Christmas stock purchased on the basis the lease had been agreed and also for redundancy payments.”
The Evening News revealed earlier this month that the London Film Museum was interested in the Tron as a shop selling merchandise for the likes of Harry Potter, based on the books by JK Rowling, pictured.
Green councillor Gavin Corbett argued for the current lease to be extended. He said people seemed to like the market.
And he added: “It is a very poor signal for the council to send to say to small businesses, ‘Go on, bust a gut to make a venue a success – and once you have done so, we will reward that success by flogging it on to a London-based business with deeper pockets’.”
The council said it had a duty to ensure best value. A spokesman said: “The committee agreed to begin the process of market testing the property ensuring that it is marketed within four to six weeks. During this period officers will work with market traders directly to investigate both short and longer term solutions subject to legal considerations.”