Pandas are being moved to a new enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo to be sheltered from construction noise as plans to build homes at a former hospital next door are likely to be approved.
Proposals by Sundial Dundas (Corstorphine) Ltd to transform Corstorphine Hospital - which closed in 2014 - into housing and a community hub have been recommended for approval by planners.
Zoo bosses are now building a new home for the two giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, to stop them being disturbed by construction noises due to their ultrasonic hearing. The council has been ordered by the Scottish Government to inform Ministers if the plans are approved by the city council on Tuesday as concerns over the pandas “could raise issues of national importance”.
If approved, the hospital plans will form 76 apartments - 30 in the original hospital building, 24 apartments in two new extensions to the rear and 22 apartments in a new building to the south of the original hospital building. The South Lodge will be converted to a community hub and management centre.
The plans have been recommended for approval by planning officers despite failing to meet parking requirements.
In a report to councillors, officers said: “The pandas are particularly vulnerable in terms of negative health impacts to noise and vibration during demolition and construction works and Edinburgh Zoo has raised concerns for the pandas’ well-being. For this reason, Scottish Ministers have issued a direction requiring the council to notify Ministers if it intended to approve the application, given that concerns around the welfare of the pandas could raise issues of national importance.
“A condition has been attached based on an agreement reached between the applicant and zoo which gives comfort that the redevelopment will not progress before adequate measures are taken to ensure that the wellbeing of the pandas is safeguarded from the possible negative impacts of demolition and construction works. These measures will also cover any possible negative impacts on the health of other animals in close proximity to the development.”
The pandas will now be moved to the north east of the zoo.
A zoo spokeswoman said: “We have started work on a new giant panda habitat at an alternative location at the zoo. The new habitat will be on what is currently African Plains, with our nyala having moved to the old camel house, which has been modified for their needs.
“Measures will also be put in place to protect our other animals close to the site. It is too early to say when the new habitat will be ready or what this might mean for any breeding attempts this year. Visitors to the zoo can still see Tian Tian and Yang Guang in their current habitat while this work is taking place.”