Ministers urged to call in Midlothian studio plans following council delay
Developers behind plans to create a £140 million film and television studio development in Midlothian have requested that the Scottish Government call-in their application for consideration claiming the council is taking too long to make a decision.
Scottish International Studios, otherwise known as PSL Land Ltd or Pentland Studios, claimed the local authority’s planning committee failed to decide on the campus set for soon to be delisted greenfield land to the west of the A701 at Straiton within their stated time frame.
Comprised of sound stages, a substantial backlot complex, employment land, hotel, power plant, film school and student accommodation, the new development would occupy 86 acres of land between the planned A701 bypass and the current road.
Having submitted an application in May this year, developers were expecting their proposals to be determined a statutory 16 weeks later on September 5th, however the date passed without the required consideration by the council’s planning committee. The developer said that they continued to work with the authority after this date:
PSL Land Ltd has had the option to lodge this request with the Scottish Ministers from 6 September 2015, however chose to continue to work with Midlothian Council planning officers towards achieving a positive recommendation to the Planning Committee to grant Planning Permission in Principle for the proposal by December 2015.
Now 28 weeks since the application was submitted, PSL Land say that the council’s planning officers are signalling that they will be unable to assess the application until the draft Local Development Plan (LDP) is ratified by the Scottish Government in June 2016. Developers added that officials believed there would be a “significant departure from the Development Plan” should the application be approved.
Documents published on Midlothian Council’s website state that the studios have been asked to redraw their application taking into account the proposed routing of the new A701, which is set to bisect the development site. Current plans show the new road running to the west of the land, running alongside housing at Damhead.
There are fears amongst planners at the council that the emerging “development plan could fall” should developers be giving permission. This however contradicts the view of some elected members, namely independent Councillor Peter de Vink, who stated that “the council should bend over backwards” to accommodate the plans.
Should ministers call-in the application before 4 December, PSL Land ltd will not appeal for non-determination through the government’s Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA), as they are allowed to under planning law. If this date passes without ministerial acceptance, the developer will appeal and start the necessary proceedings that remove the council from determining the application, placing the decision making powers in the hands of an assigned reporter.
In response to the council’s position on delaying the determination, PSL Land added: “PSL Land Ltd would wish to state they have no issue with the assessment, but raise considerable concerns as to why it has taken until week 28 of the decision-making process to adopt this position, particularly as Midlothian Council intend in the Emerging Local Plan to remove the Greenbelt designation on the PSL Land site.
“As a result of this change in position by the Midlothian Council officials, PSL Land Ltd have lodged a request for the application to be called in by Scottish Ministers for consideration as a project of national importance.”
The Keppie Design penned proposals would create Scotland’s first purpose built film studio and, according to developers, could deliver millions of pounds and create hundreds of jobs in Midlothian. PSL Land began discussions with Midlothian Council in the middle of 2013, saying they received strong early support from officers and elected members. The site at Old Pentland was selected out of a possible 28 other candidates throughout the country for its access to land and the transport links to Scotland’s capital.
It is believed that three other sites in Scotland are being considered to create a national film studio, though PSL Land Ltd are the only developers to submit plans.