Speaking at a meeting of the council’s planning board today, Mr McDiarmid said 111 out of 113 planning applications received in the last quarter, from January to April, had been granted under delegated powers.
Chairman of the planning board Frank Robertson said the figure showed that the planning service was the best performing in Scotland, indicating the amount of work officials put in.
The high proportion of successful applications is often due to compromise being reached between the applicant and any objectors, said Mr McDiarmid, with assistance offered to applicants so that matters can be sorted out by the time it comes to making a decision.
He said it was preferable to reach a resolution within three months rather than simply refuse an application within six weeks, adding that site visits often took place, although they are not statutory.
An example of compromise came during a hearing of a disputed planning application at the meeting.
The application was for planning permission (in principle) for a gap site in Nesbister, which the council had recommended for approval as it was in housing land close to existing settlement.
However a neighbour, backed by the community council, had objected because the proposed site wrapped around the front and side of their property, with the proposed house being higher than theirs. This could have potentially meant loss of light and privacy, and would have been out of keeping with the existing linear development. The objector was particularly worried about the proposed access road, which would be “squeezed in” and sliced in at an angle on a steep site, possibly damaging the objector’s garden.
At the meeting it was agreed to support the development, but with any future house being in line with the others and the access road being linked with one already planned for three further dwellings. Detailed planning permission will be needed for this.
Meanwhile planning permission was granted for a wind turbine at Leagarth House, Fetlar, which had attracted objections from nearby residents and the community council. Although they had a chance to address the meeting, no objectors arrived and the decision was made in their absence.
The objectors cited the excessive noise already experienced from a turbine at the Fetlar Interpretive Centre, and feared the visual impact of the proposed 20-metre 11kW turbine. Unlike other turbines in the area, which are “tucked in” beside buildings, this one seemed likely to be “visually intrusive”. The community council said it could not support anything that might prove “intolerable” to residents.
However the planning board granted permission, members having been advised by officials that the proposal was recommended for approval and that relocating the turbine would be difficult.
Environmental health will now be asked to look at the noisy turbine.