PRESSURE SECURES MORE TRANSPARENCY IN PLANNING ENFORCEMENT

planning enforcement photoTwo Aberdeenshire councillors are looking forward to improved transparency for the public in cases of unauthorised development activity.

Leading Aberdeenshire councillor Paul Johnston has persuaded planning officials to publish online the register of what planning enforcement the Council has taken following complaints from the public.

After more than a four year effort, senior officials have finally agreed to suggestions from Democratic Independent and Green group leader Cllr Paul Johnston that the required information should be published on Aberdeenshire Council’s website. Many other local authorities have long had this easily available to the public but Aberdeenshire has only made it available to view in a very limited number of council offices.  The new online register will be published shortly following assurances from the Council’s head of planning.

This comes in a week where there has been considerable controversy over a ‘quarry’ at Whitecairns.

“A published enforcement register on the web would save everybody time and effort to find out what is happening about breaches in planning consent.  While my request had nothing to do with recent issues at Whitecairns, it is clear that people would get information quicker and be able to see what action is being taken,” said Cllr Johnston.

“I think it’s important that people can see that a complaint has been received and if it is being investigated.  Following investigation the public need to know what the council found and what action is intended.”

Councillor Johnston said that Aberdeenshire Council should be more transparent in its planning processes and particularly in enforcement.  Publishing the register online so the public can track Council actions will encourage accurate reporting of activity and restore confidence in Council planning processes argued the councillor.

“I first raised this four and a half years ago and welcome the move to publish within the next month,” added Cllr Johnston.

Green councillor Martin Ford has also pressed for an online planning enforcement register, for example at a recent meeting of the Garioch Area Committee.

Cllr Ford said: “Under the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, councillors are barred from pressing Council officials for a particular outcome to cases of unauthorised development or breaches of planning permission. Councillors have to refer complaints and complainants about possible unauthorised development to planning officers. So it is particularly important that local people can easily find out whether the Council has already received a complaint, if it is investigating, and what action officers have decided upon.”

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