Falkirk Council concern as Forth Valley NHS slow to respond on planning matters

Concerns have been raised that under-pressure health services could be missing out on vital cash from new housing developments due to a lack of input from the NHS in planning decisions.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 5:01 pm

Falkirk councillors voiced concern that Forth Valley NHS has not been responding to planning applications.

The health board is given the chance to comment on all new developments in the area and builders can be asked to make a contribution to healthcare facilities where needed.

The issue was raised again at Falkirk Council’s planning committee this week, when councillors agreed to grant planning permission for eight new houses at land to the north east of Braehead, 1 Main Street, Shieldhill.

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Concerns have been raised about late responses from the NHS on planning matters.

But Councillor Alan Nimmo questioned why there had been no input from the NHS, given the pressure that was on local GP surgeries in particular.

He was told that with such a small application, the board would not usually comment.

But other members agreed that the issue did not just relate to this application saying the health board consistently takes too long to respond, leaving planners unable to finalise applications.

Councillor John McLuckie said: “We do know even with major developments, even a year later they still haven’t come back with a response, despite numerous letters from council.”

Provost Billy Buchanan agreed, saying: “We need to look at that more seriously to make sure that they come back as soon as – our officers can’t finalise contributions as they are waiting for this consultee.”

Councillors heard that work is ongoing with the health board to resolve the issue and planning officers are keen to do so.

But members stressed that the issue was becoming more important as health services are becoming increasingly strained.

In recent years, development in some parts of Falkirk Council – particularly the Braes and Larbert – has put pressure on schools and GP services in particular.

Once any permission is granted, the council can’t then go back to housebuilders to ask for contributions, so members were keen to know how this development fitted into the bigger picture.

Provost Billy Buchanan asked members if they would agree to ask the new Director of Place Services, Malcolm Bennie, to write to the NHS regarding the situation.

Councillor Laura Murtagh said she fully supported sending the letter but added that it was important to note that the problem had been going on for a long time.

She said: “I can fully understand that at this time there are pressures on the health board and they have many pressing matters but this is a serious situation.”

Following the meeting, a spokesperson for NHS Forth Valley said: “We are involved in discussions with all three local councils regarding planning applications, particularly in relation to potential developer contributions to healthcare, a relatively new concept although they have been in place for council services, such as education, for some time.

“We highlight the potential impact certain proposed new developments may have on local health services and actively pursue contributions towards future healthcare facilities, where appropriate.

“Work is also underway to develop proposals to improve primary care premises across Forth Valley which will greatly support our contributions to future planning applications.”