Success at national awards for Council's Planning Service

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(L-R) - Malcolm Macleod, Head of Planning & Environment; Peter Carus (GVA Grimley, Agent for the Nucleus Project); Dafydd Jones, Area Planning Manager; Emma Forbes, Principal Planner; Laura Williamson, Performance and Systems Support Officer; Angus Wilson (Reiach and Hall, Architects); Fiona Elder, Planning Systems Administrator; John Norton (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority); Frank Doherty, Building Standards Team Leader

The Highland Council received two awards at last week’s Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning.  One Award was in the “Process” Category for the Highland eDevelopment project and the second was in the “Place” category for the Nucleus Building in Wick.

The Council has implemented a Highland eDevelopment project which has delivered a transformation so that over 6,000 planning and building standards applications and enquiries are submitted, assessed and determined electronically, avoiding significant printing costs and delivering an enhanced service for customers.

The project has involved significant changes to the way the planning service works.  A fully electronic process now compliments Enterprise, the teams workload management system, meaning that workload is easily transferred across a network of seven area offices if workload issues or staff absences prove it necessary.  

Achieving this involved a full review of how planners process all applications (including pre-application requests), the implementation of a mobile working solution for all staff and significant engagement with customers and stakeholders.  As a result Highland Council have achieved one of the highest rates of electronic submission in Scotland (over 90%) and been praised by the Scottish Government as a great example of success. 

Delighted that the project has received national recognition, Chair of The Council’s Environment, Planning and Development Committee, Councillor Allan Henderson said: “The Judges could see how this project has really increased efficiency and as both customer and staff feedback has been so positive we are already rolling out the approach to other application types.Everyone involved should feel proud of their input and commitment to what is being hailed as an example of good practice for other councils to follow.”

The second award was for the Planning teams involvement with the new Nucleus building in Wick.

In early 2015 planning permission was granted for a building for archives of the UK civil nuclear industry and the historical archives of Caithness and the  “Nucleus”, opened in February this year.

The proposal was subject to pre-application discussions with relevant consultees, coordinated by the Council.  The pre-application facilitated a partnership approach and professional knowledge sharing at the outset.  Matters identified were addressed by the applicant, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

The Council’s management of the application process is an excellent example of facilitating development from pre-application stage to completion on the ground in a tight timescale. 

The Judges felt this was a wonderful, strong and robust piece of architecture.

Cllr Henderson added his praise; He said: “There was no doubt that it was built to last, which was an important factor considering its precious cultural and built heritage contents. In order to deliver the development, on time, the planning team moved quickly and effectively to deliver so I am pleased their professionalism has been acknowledged by the judges and I congratulate them on winning their award.”

17 Nov 2017
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