New future for Leith Custom House

(adapted from a post on Leith Links CC’s website)

New lease of life for custom house as council takes ownership of iconic Leith venue

The City of Edinburgh Council has reached an in-principle agreement with the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) to lease Leith’s Custom House from April 2015.

The final terms of the agreement between SHBT and the Council will be put to the Finance & Resources Committee for consideration in May.

The venture will see the Trust, which already operates Riddle’s Court, work in tandem with the Council and the local community to restore the building as a hub in the heart of the community.

Initial repairs and cleaning inside and out of the building will take place over the course of Spring 2015 to prepare the venue for public access. A feasibility study will be commissioned in due course to also consider the long-term use and development of Custom House.

Last month, the Council announced that it had successfully purchased the historic building, after submitting an offer to the National Museums Scotland late last year.

Commenting on the news, Councillor Richard Lewis, Convener of Culture and Sport for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “This is an important step in the journey to open up Custom House to the Leith community, as well as Edinburgh residents and visitors, and an exciting development as the Council edges closer to taking ownership of the building in April.

“It is such a significant historic building and I’m delighted we have been able to save it for the people of Leith and Edinburgh. It is the oldest of its kind in Scotland having been built in 1812, and we will continue to speak with potential partners about subletting the venue in the short-term, as bigger scale developments take shape, so that public can access and explore the venue as soon as possible.

“The next steps are for the Council to receive the keys and take ownership of Custom House in April and for missives to be signed by SHBT.”

Chair of the SHBT Board of Trustees John Campbell, said:“Although we are a small charity, we have a strong track record in saving important buildings at risk for communities across Scotland and we are delighted now to be involved in securing a future for the Customs House.

“Our first priority will be to make some repairs to the building and spruce it up so that pretty soon members of the public will be able access it.  Its various rooms will be available for use whilst we develop the capital project from feasibility study through to completion.

“This is a very exciting project that will deliver a vibrant mixed use hub for the benefit of the people of Leith and beyond. A key element will be the presentation of selected artefacts and interpretation displays to highlight the historic importance of Leith as the gateway to Edinburgh and Scotland. Other uses may include offices, workshops and public rooms for meetings and events.”

Elected members and community representatives from 15 different Leith groups are being informed at each stage of the project, and an update on the long-term lease of the building is due in May 2015 when a report goes before the Council’s Finance & Resources Committee.

Maggie Wright, Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, 0131 226 3622 / 07801 710360 Email: