Foreign Office officials are monitoring a planning application by Michael Laird Architects for 76 homes next to Edinburgh Zoo due to worries over the welfare of Chinese pandas
The application, submitted in September last year, would see the conversion of the C-listed former Corstorphine Hospital into 32 apartments with another 44 created in new blocks.
However, in April, the Scottish Government issued a direction to City of Edinburgh Council reserving the right to call in the application due to the effect on the two pandas, Tian Tian and Yuangguang, which are on a 10-year loan from the Chinese government.
In a letter written in April, and released under Freedom of Information laws, Scottish secretary David Mundell said: ‘The giant pandas are a reflection of our relationship with China, which was also demonstrated recently by the first minister’s visit.
‘I have asked my officials to continue monitoring this issue with their counterparts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and your officials.’
Another letter to the Scottish Government from Jeremy Peat, chair of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, also released under the FOI request, saying that the noise, vibration and other effects likely to result from a development planned at the old Corstorphine Hospital site poses a ‘mortal risk’ to the zoo’s giant pandas.
In a reply, Roseanna Cunningham, cabinet secretary for the environment, climate change and land reform in the Scottish Government, said that it would be an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 to cause a captive or domestic animal unnecessary suffering.
She encouraged the RZSS to continue discussions with developers Sundial Dundas (Corstorphine).
As part of a set of measures taken to prevent disturbing the pandas, the developer comissioned a noise test to measure the existing sound levels in the vicinity of the zoo.
Conducted by Charlie Fleming Associates, the test aimed to establish what sound levels the pandas are currently ’exposed to and are comfortable with’.
The report concluded that noise levels from the development as experienced in the panda house would peak at 55 decibels – quieter than a conversation at 2m.
The developers and architects have been contacted for comment.
The planning application has yet to be determined.