Concerns over the impact of a new housing development on wildlife and the local environment could see it called in by Scottish Ministers.
Midlothian Council has told developers of the proposed site at the former residential Wellington School, near Penicuik, that they do not need to carry out an environmental impact assessment on the land before submitting plans.
However, the decision goes against objections from local residents who fear the housing could have a devastating effect on the local wildlife.
One objector told the local authority that he had a great crested newt living in his garden “just 200 yards away” from the development site and warned that reed beds on neighbouring land were a “valuable carbon sink”.
Another pointed out that the site was rich in biodiversity, with birds of prey, badgers, amphibians, otters and bats among other creatures living there.
Wellington Action Group (WAG) warned the council it would consider asking Scottish Ministers to get involved if they turned down the opportunity to have environmental impact assessments on the land carried out.
In a letter to the council, the group said: “We are also aware of the role that Scottish Ministers could play in respect of such matters of consideration, regarding EIAs, specifically the ability for Ministers to exercise powers by calling in any proposed application for their own determination.
“This is an avenue of much interest to WAG and may merit further consideration once the determination of Midlothian Council, in response to the developers proposal not to undertake a EIA, is provided.”
Developers had asked the council to rule on whether the assessments were needed, stating their reasons why they believed they were not, describing the impact of the proposals as ‘low’.
Officers agreed with the views of the developers and confirmed they did not believe the assessments were required.
Wellington School was established as a residential farm school for boys in the late 19th century between Penicuik and Leadburn. The school closed five years ago.
A public meeting about Lochay Homes’ plans to build around 50 homes on the site in Howgate village hall earlier this year was standing room only as locals turned out to express concern, sparking the establishment of an action group.