COUNCIL planners have defended farming out building applications to local authority staff 170 miles away in Lochgilphead.

Last winter a total of 82 building warrant bids submitted in the Scottish Borders were sub-contracted to Argyll & Bute Council.

And Scottish Borders Council paid the west-coast planning department more than £28,000 for processing the papers.

Although questions have been asked about the requirement of local knowledge in dealing with planning matters, bosses at Newtown St Boswells have defended the decision.

A spokesman told us: "At the time of engaging Argyll & Bute Council, Scottish Borders Council had gone through an extensive period of staff loss and recruitment challenges.

"This had resulted in Building Warrant application turnaround times that did not serve our customers well and were failing national targets.

"Using another local authority to undertake warrant processing resolved the issue until such time as the service was back up to a full complement of staff."

As with all local authorities, planning departments face stringent targets for deliberating on applications.

The first of the 82 building warrant applications was sent away to Lochgilphead on October 25, 2018.

And a stream of work continued to head north-west until January 10 of this year.

The Scottish Borders Council spokesman added: “Argyll & Bute Council were selected as they were an experienced local authority who could provide the service required.

"Using a local authority also meant the assessments were still independently carried out.

"The location of the provider chosen has no bearing on time or cost. It was only the warrant assessment process being contracted out.

“No site visits were necessary and post approval site inspections on these files are still undertaken by Scottish Borders Council.”

At time of going to press two of the applications which were made last winter remain with Argyll & Bute Council awaiting a decision.