Lothian Chambers building to become French Embassy

Councillors consider lease arrangement which could save the Council £173k a year in running costs 

The Lothian Chambers building is set to take on a new lease of life as Scotland’s ‘House of France’ under proposals being considered by councillors next week (Tuesday 7 February).
Lease arrangements could see the French Embassy agree to move into the B-Listed building, saving the Council £173,000 a year in running costs.
Following meetings with the Lord Provost, the Embassy has proposed relocating this year to tie in with the 70th anniversaries of both the French Consulate in Edinburgh and the Edinburgh International Festival.
The Embassy’s proposals for the building include:
  • A 100-seat auditorium, featuring an extensive programme of theatre, music, dance and artist residencies that aim to support as well as showcase performances from Scottish, French and international artists;
  • A 20,000 book and multimedia library, offering a variety of lectures, reading groups and youth activities;
  • An art gallery and a Scotland Centre for Photography;
  • A French and European language school;
  • An information and support centre for French and European citizens;
  • An outsourced café offering refreshments and light catering;
  • Continued space rental for receptions, weddings and civic occasions.
The Council’s wider asset management plan aims to rationalise the use of public property to make sure buildings are used as efficiently as possible.
Councillor Gavin Barrie, Economy Convener, said: “If we are able to maximise the use of these buildings, relocate staff and services efficiently and make considerable savings on running costs; it makes absolute sense to do so.
“If taken forward, the French Embassy’s proposals would give the Lothian Chambers a new lease of life and provide residents and visitors with fantastic opportunities to enjoy public access to the property.”
The French Consul General, Emmanuel Cocher, said: “True to the Auld Alliance as well as our European bonds, France wants to invest in Edinburgh and Scotland. The Lothian Chambers are set to house an enhanced programme of international and Scottish cultural activities, relevant to all audiences which bring people together.
“We are conscious of taking over a central element of the civic heritage in the capital of Scotland and, in doing so, we commit ourselves to nurturing the spirit of creation and Enlightenment and cross-cultural exchanges that have made Edinburgh the ‘world art beacon’ it is known as internationally.”
329 High Street
Councillors will also consider a lease arrangement with the Chris Stewart Group which has undertaken a multi-award winning £45 million mixed use redevelopment in the area. The Group proposes to refurbish a separate property, 329 High Street, for serviced apartments.
Council staff and services at the Lothian Chambers and 329 High Street would be relocated to nearby premises with registry services available within the City Chambers.
The report detailing both lease options will be considered by the Economy Committee before being referred to the Finance and Resources Committee for a decision.
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