Min­is­ters keep eye on house plans near zoo

Build­ing: De­ci­sion may be called in out of con­cern for pan­das

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY LAURA PATER­SON

The Scot­tish Govern­ment has said a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion near Ed­in­burgh Zoo could be called in over panda health con­cerns.

The zoo is home to two gi­ant pan­das on loan to Scot­land from China and con­cerns have been raised that a planned neigh­bour­ing hous­ing de­vel­op­ment could af­fect the an­i­mals dur­ing con­struc­tion.

Scot­tish min­is­ters have sent a let­ter to Ed­in­burgh Coun­cil di­rect­ing them to no­tify the govern­ment if per­mis­sion is granted for the 78-home re­de­vel­op­ment of Corstor­phine Hospi­tal, so they can de­cide whether to take the de­ci­sion out of its hands.

The let­ter states this is due to is­sues of “na­tional im­por­tance” which in­clude “possible neg­a­tive health im­pacts for gi­ant pan­das at Ed­in­burgh Zoo dur­ing con­struc­tion”.

It added: “This direc­tion does not com­mit min­is­ters to call­ing in any such ap­pli­ca­tion but it does re­serve their right to in­ter­vene.”

Labour has crit­i­cised the move and linked it to the govern­ment call­ing in a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion for a Chi­nese-backed offshore windfarm de­vel­op­ment in East Loth­ian, which the Scot­tish Govern­ment has in­sisted is not con­nected to the first min­is­ter meet­ing the par­ent firm on her China visit last week.

Scot­tish Labour com­mu­ni­ties spokes­woman Mon­ica Len­non said: “The Scot­tish Govern­ment ap­pears to be de­vel­op­ing a habit of in­ter­fer­ing in lo­cal demo­cratic plan­ning de­ci­sions, es­pe­cially when Chi­nese in­ter­ests are in­volved.

“Last week we dis­cov­ered that SNP min­is­ters had called in a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion for the old Cocken­zie power plant, be­fore East Loth­ian Coun­cil had even had a chance to con­sider it and on the very day the first min­is­ter met with the Chi­nese com­pany be­hind the ap­pli­ca­tion.

“Now they are putting Ed­in­burgh City Coun­cil on no­tice that its de­ci­sion on a site next to Ed­in­burgh Zoo is be­ing watched be­cause it might af­fect the Chi­nese pan­das.”

She said the govern­ment should “stop un­der­min­ing lo­cal democ­racy”.

A Scot­tish Govern­ment spokes­woman said: “Min­is­ters have is­sued the direc­tion in view of con­cerns re­lat­ing to the po­ten­tial im­pact of the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment in­clud­ing possible neg­a­tive health im­pacts for gi­ant pan­das at Ed­in­burgh Zoo dur­ing con­struc­tion, as raised in rep­re­sen­ta­tions by Royal Zoo­log­i­cal So­ci­ety of Scot­land.”

“Possible neg­a­tive health im­pacts for gi­ant pan­das”

VERY IM­POR­TANT PANDA: Tian Tian, one of two gi­ant pan­das on loan from China at Ed­in­burgh Zoo, which is next to the planned de­vel­op­ment

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