MORE than 2000 people have signed a new petition urging the City of Edinburgh Council to change a drastic rise in rent which could threaten the future of a leading gallery.

The Stills gallery, a centre for photography, both work and exhibition space, in the centre of the capital, is facing a rise in rent from £16,000 to £47,000.

The change, to take place over five years, poses "a huge threat to our future" the gallery says.

The story, a reported in The Herald last week, has led to a wave of goodwill messages to the gallery, its director has revealed.

The council said that the rent rise is because it is being raised to the market value.

READ MORE: Gallery fears for future after rent is tripled

Ben Harman, director, said: "Following publication of the article on Friday we have been overwhelmed by goodwill messages for Stills.

"On Saturday we decided to set up an online petition in order to harness this support.

"Although a petition won’t resolve the matter, we feel it will provide us with a very useful demonstration of support.

"It will help us to continue to make the case to City of Edinburgh Council that the matter of Stills’ decreasing grant funding and huge increase in rent, needs to be addressed."

He added: "The messages of support so far include comments from high profile figures in the arts sector; internationally-renowned artists and past exhibitors; and people based locally and across Scotland who have shared experiences of the crucial learning and training they have undertaken at Stills’ city centre premises."

Stills, established in 1977, is based in Cockburn Street, in the city centre.

The gallery has now opened its latest exhibition, Ambit, a show celebrating new ways of making photographs in Scotland, featuring work by Kieran Dodds, Brittonie Fletcher, Alex Hall, Morwenna Kearsley, Mhairi Law and Frances Scott.

The show is collaboration with Streetlevel Photoworks of Glasgow, Scotland’s other major photographic gallery and centre.

READ MORE: Future of Stills gallery in question

A spokeswoman for the council said last week: "When the original lease was drawn up for Stills Limited they were offered a substantial reduction in rent in recognition of the considerable capital they planned to spend on the property.

"Stills are now being asked to pay their rent at market value and the increase is being phased over five years."

Mr Harman added: "The council’s comment... referred to the original lease for our building which was set up 25 years ago.

"At that time, Stills invested over £1m in the building to establish itself on Cockburn Street with an extensive refurbishment of the premises.

"This investment was taken into consideration when the lease was agreed.

"However, since then, Stills has continued to invest in the premises and has undergone huge organisational development making an ever increasing, vital contribution to Edinburgh’s cultural offer.

"We are keen to work with the council to resolve this issue so that Stills can continue to work from its city centre location and remain a key part of future cultural development plans in Edinburgh."