Planners grasp need for speed

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Planners at Scottish Borders Council are showing ever more awareness of the need for speed while making decisions on applications, latest gigures reveal.

In its annual report to the Scottish Government, the council’s Newtown-based planning service boasts of further reductions in the time it takes to deal with cases.

It is now performing better than the national average for all types of applications.

In addition to reduced decision-making timescales, the council’s latest planning performance framework report also highlights the work being done on preparing its next local development plan and other planning guidance, running the Scottish Borders Design Awards, overseeing the ongoing flood protection schemes in Selkirk and Hawick and developing a conservation area regeneration scheme bid for Jedburgh.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Ron Smith, the authority’s executive member for planning and environment, said: “Every year, we continue to see improvements in the planning service, and I commend the staff for their ongoing efforts to reduce the time it takes for applicants to get a decision.

“This is largely down to the groundwork that officers put in with developers and applicants prior to the submission of plans.

“It has taken a great deal of work to get to this position, and further improvements are planned, as well as a review of the service as a whole to see where delivery can continue to be enhanced.”

Last year’s fall in the average time taken to decide planning applications follows another the year before.

It includes a reduction of more than half in the average time spent on deciding on major applications, such as wind farms and large housing developments, from 73.3 weeks in 2013-14 to 30.9 weeks in 2014-15 and now to 27.6 weeks.

The time taken to turn round non-householder developments has fallen by over five weeks to 17.4 weeks, and for householders’ applications it was reduced from 7.7 weeks to 6.7 weeks.