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Film Studio Plans Back on Consultation

The Scottish Government has reopened the consultation into plans for Scotland’s first purpose built film studio at Straiton, Midlothian, but time is running out before Ministers will have their say.

As part of the planning appeal process, a final 28 days is being given for representation after new evidence emerged in plans to construct a £140M film studio complex on soon to be delisted greenbelt land in the north of the county.

The reporter overseeing the appeal on behalf of the government, Mr David Buylla, had requested all supporting information previously submitted to Midlothian Council and subsequently went on the ask for additional documents and research which had not been included. This includes information on a proposed Energy Centre, a document summarising why the Straiton site was selected out of 28 others in the country, an assessment into whether the proposed A701 realignment can still be routed to the east of woodland, environmental assessments (bat and owl) and a financial statement.

Now that the reporter is satisfied that all the necessary information has been assembled, he has decided to commence the final 28 day consultation. During this time, concerned parties and previous consultees are being invited to study the aforementioned new evidence and submit their concluding comments. The cut off date for representations is the 9 September. After this, it is believed the appellant will be given an additional 14 days to study the responses before the reporter will prepare his guidance for Ministers. The timescale for a final announcement is unknown but could be as early as the end of September.

Anyone wishing to comment of the new evidence should write to:

Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) 4 The Courtyard

Callendar Business Park

Callendar Road

Falkirk FK1 1XR

Or e-mail, quoting case reference number PPA-290-2032.

The evidence is available to study at Midlothian Coucnil’s Fairfield House, 8 Lothian Road, Dalkeith, Midlothian, EH22 3ZN. We have also provided links to the key new documents at the bottom of this article.

Developers behind the proposals, PSLL Ltd, appealed to the Scottish Government’s Department of Planning and Environmental Appeals in December last year after Midlothian Council failed to make a decision within the statutory 16 week period. The local planning committee decided that they would be unable to assess the application until the forthcoming Local Development Plan had been fully adopted, due to the proposed A701 bypass that is set to run through the site. Scottish Ministers later “called in” the application and will ultimately rule of the proposals.

However the appeal process has now been running for eight months, considerably longer than the tentative decision date of February that was given at the start of the process. This date was pushed back to 21 April and was consequently delayed again to allow for developers to undertake bat and owl surveys during the summer months.

The bat survey did discover signs of roosting bats in four farm buildings and one adjacent building off site. Each occurrence was of a single bat except in one building where two bats were found. There was no sign of any maternity roosts and the breeds discovered (soprano and common pipistrelles) are deemed common in the area. The report states:

As bat roosts have been identified, a Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) derogation licence will be required before works can proceed. Compensation and mitigation measures, which will be required on the site to ensure that the bat interests are protected, are outlined in this report.

Assuming that all recommendations and mitigation methods outlined within this report are adhered to, it is considered that the demolition proposals will not have a significant effect upon bat populations in the local area.

However the survey into the presence of protected owl species has been classified and will not be released to the public, presumably pointing to the presence of a protected species on site. It is not uncommon for surveys such as this to not be released in appeal processes.

If approved, the complex will be comprised of sound stages, backlots, a film school, likely operated by Napier University, hotel, student accommodation and energy centre. A studio tour building and a mixed use development could follow, though would be subject to an additional planning application. The developer’s intentions were for part of the complex to be operational by Autumn 2017 but this date will likely now have fallen. A reserved matters application to Midlothian Council will be required to clarify the design of the studio complex should the initial application be approved.

Links to the new evidence (Takes you to DPEA site where you will need to select ‘Open Document’):

  • Bat Survey – here
  • Site Selection – here
  • Night Shoot Filming Details – here
  • Code of Practice for Filming in Edinburgh – here
  • Noise Assessment – here
  • Developer’s Proposed A701 Realignment – here
  • Energy Strategy Summary – here
  • Summary Document – here

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