The speed with which house-building applications are dealt with this year may be slowed by a baby boom among planning staff, councillors heard this week.
But changes to working practices in the service should lead to a far quicker turnaround from next year.
The planners were congratulated by the audit and scrutiny committee on Wednesday for pulling their performance around last year, when 50.5 per cent of house applications were dealt with within two months compared to just 24.2 per cent the previous year. The improvement has been put down to councillors agreeing to the department’s request for more staff to deal with the large workload.
Infrastructure executive director Gordon Greenhill said he was delighted by the recovery, which represented a 100 per cent improvement. But he warned there could be a dip this year due to maternity leave after five babies were born to members of staff.
In future he is aiming to have 70-80 per cent of house applications dealt with within two months, a rate that Shetland Islands Council used to manage a few years ago.
The committee was discussing the annual performance indicators which councils have to produce by order of the government to allow the public to see how they perform. Many of the measurements are inappropriate or meaningless for a small place like Shetland but one which Mr Greenhill said really stuck in his craw relates to recycling rates.
According to the official figures the SIC only recycles or composts 22.6 per cent of its refuse, making it something of a failure. Mr Greenhill said it was really more like 93 per cent due to the amount turned into heat by being burnt in the waste-to-energy plant, which would make it the greenest local authority in Scotland. Only around seven per cent is buried in the landfill site.
Concern about the amount of bale wrap plastic polluting the Shetland countryside elicited the news from councillor Robert Henderson that local salmon farmers have brought in a machine for compacting salmon feed bags to ship for recycling, which might offer a solution for the crofters and farmers too.