Council chiefs have confirmed that the project to redevelop the Royal Mile’s Tron Kirk are facing financial problems, and that plans may have to be scaled back if new revenue is not found soon.
The development, announced in 2004, was originally set to cost just over £1 million, but costs have grown over this period and the estimated price of the project has doubled. Plans for the Category A listed building had included a restaurant-café, an exhibition highlighting the history of the building as well as performance and art spaces.
Jim Inch, the council’s director of corporate services, confirmed that sources of funding were being sought, but admitted that a rethink of the development may be necessary.
He said: “Possible funding sources being investigated include a premium of up to £350,000 from an in-going tenant. This is dependent on the results of the marketing process. Taken with [Scottish Executive funding] of £650,000, this leaves a funding shortfall of £1.1 million.
"A Historic Scotland grant application was rejected. Other funding sources being considered include Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and heritage lottery funding.
"No other external avenue for funding has been identified, and the council has not prioritised the project to a level that would qualify for internal funding.”
The plans for the redevelopment have come in for criticism. In 2006, it was revealed that over 300 letters were written opposing the council’s plans to modernise the site. Criticism centered on the decision to incorporate a restaurant and the threat this could pose to the site's popular tourist information centre.
This criticism was echoed last week by Bill Cowan, spokesperson for the Old Town association. He told the Evening News: “The High Street doesn't need another tea room. We want the church used for something sensible, and we're keen to see the building repaired. This has gone on too long."
Despite such disapproval, the plans were eventually approved early last year.