WORK on transforming an old hospital into a housing development could have “negative health impacts” for Edinburgh Zoo’s two giant pandas on loan from China, the Scottish Government has said.

It has put Edinburgh City Council on notice it may take over the decision-making process for the redevelopment of

Corstorphine Hospital, which sits at the south west corner of the zoo.

A letter to Edinburgh City Council said the move was “in view of concerns which could raise issues of national importance” which included possible “negative health impacts” for the two giant pandas.

Giant pandas, Yang Guang and Tian Tian, were loaned to Edinburgh Zoo in 2011 by China as a symbol of the growing

friendship between the two nations. Despite failing to produce offspring, they are among the zoo’s top attractions.

The latest intervention in a local council’s decision-making process comes just days after Scottish ministers were criticised for calling in the proposed offshore element of a Chinese-backed wind farm development at the former Cockenzie power station in East Lothian. The announcement came during the First Minister’s visit to China, when she met representatives of China’s State

Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC), which has links to the wind farm development.

Scottish Labour’s 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 day the First Minister met with the Chinese company behind the application.

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

“The Scottish Government should let planning committees get on with their job and stop undermining the role of councils and local democracy.”

Developers Sundial Dundas wants to refurbish the former community hospital. Plans for the listed building and its grounds involved creating 76 apartments including 44 new-build, along with car parking and landscaping.

The average selling price for the new

properties is said to be between £450,000 to £500,000.

An objection to the project was raised by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. Noise studies have been carried out close to the panda’s pen, to help determine how construction noise might affect them.

A spokesman for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland said: “We would be concerned by any development which may disturb animals in our care, particularly sensitive species such as our giant pandas.

“We are in continuing contact with the company proposing to develop the former Corstorphine Hospital to consider actions which could be taken to ensure there would be no adverse impact on animal welfare.”

The Scottish Government move means that if the council decides to grant planning consent along with associated building consent, they must notify Scottish ministers. They will then have the choice of

deciding whether to allow the council to go ahead and determine the application or over-ride their decision-making powers.

A spokesman for the City of Edinburgh Council said: “The Scottish Government’s feedback has been received and will be considered as part of the planning process.”

A Scottish Government spokesman 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.

“As the applications for both planning consent and listed building consent remain live, the Scottish Government is unable to comment further at this time.”