Thousands are calling for the Tron Kirk market to be saved – as JK Rowling distanced herself from plans to transform it into a film museum.
A petition objecting to the proposals has attracted almost 10,000 signatures ahead of a crunch meeting tomorrow to decide the building’s future.
The Royal Mile landmark is now home to a Victorian market but the lease expires at the end of this month, opening it up to rival bids.
Rick Senat, chairman of the Covent Garden-based London Film Museum, has expressed an interest in transforming the A-listed building into a shop selling merchandise from the likes of Harry Potter and James Bond films.
Mr Senat is a partner in the literary agency that represents the billionaire writer, a director of Pottermore Ltd and a former boss at Warner Bros, which produced the films.
It was initially understood that Mr Senat was acting on behalf of Rowling and intended to open a Harry Potter store.
But in a letter responding to stallholders’ concerns, the agency representing Rowling’s business interests insisted that Mr Senat’s application had “nothing” to do with her.
Council chiefs will decide whether to renew the market’s lease or put the 17th-century church up for sale where it would be expected to attract huge interest.
The Tron is now leased for around £56,000 a year but, because of its prime location on the famous thoroughfare, it could command six-figure rental offers from rival businesses if put on the market.
The petition will be presented to the city’s finance and resources committee when it meets to discuss the plans.
It states: “Please do not take away the jobs and livelihoods of local Edinburgh businesses and traders. The Royal Mile Market is Edinburgh’s only permanent, seven-day, indoor marketplace. It is home to over 15 local businesses, brands and traders, all of whom are based entirely in Edinburgh.
“Now a multi-million pound, London-based company have put in a bid to take the Tron Kirk away from us to use as a ‘gift shop’.
“As the current tenants, we have the right to renew our lease at the current market rate before any other offers are considered – which we want to do.
“Between us we employ over 50 local people on top of providing a unique shopping destination and tourist attraction. In addition, many of our profits back into the local economy.”
David Coutts holds a rolling lease with the city council pending the agreement of a long-term deal with Edinburgh World Heritage Trust for the Tron’s redevelopment as a “visitor attraction”.
He said: “We are making good progress. We have clearly demonstrated to members of the council that it is a matter of policy to renew leases with existing leaseholders providing they are operating the lease efficiently.”