Ellon councillor hits out at slow planning process

AN ELLON councillor is pushing for decisive action after a planning performance report indicated that Aberdeenshire Council was one of the country’s slowest councils for processing planning applications.

Cllr Rob Merson has asked for action from the council on the matter, which has been a long-standing concern to developers in the Shire. Speaking to the Times, he said that there needed to be greater recognition of the need to consult with architects and developers in acquiring a better understanding of their problems and expectations, while providing clarification of the planning service’s expectations of them.

The report - by Audit Scotland - covers the period 2009/2010 and indicates that Aberdeenshire was among the slowest local authorities in Scotland - just half of all applications were dealt with within two months, putting the council 30th out of 32 for time taken processing applications. It also identified, however, that Aberdeenshire Council’s Planning department dealt with more planning applications than any other local authority in Scotland - 3,610 in 2010, compared to just 3357 for the City of Edinburgh, 2569 for Glasgow and 1757 for Aberdeen.

While commending the dedication of the planning team in handling such a volume of applications, and acknowledging recent indications of improvement, Cllr Merson asserted that there needed to be a greater political will to reduce the time taken to process applications timeously and efficiently.

Cllr Merson said: “The performance of our planning service has never been more crucial, as Scotland strives to drive itself out of the recession. Politicians do not create employment - entrepreneurs create employment – but politicians must create an environment it which it can thrive.

“Householders also need to be able to plan ahead, and the restrictions imposed by mortgage lenders mean that more people may wish to adapt their existing homes rather than move. While the SNP Group shares the view that the quality of our planning service should not be compromised by demand for greater speed, we need to do better – faster!”