Plans being laid for drones to take the place of councillors

Councillors to consider their being replaced by drones on planning visits
Councillors to consider their being replaced by drones on planning visits

HOURS SPENT BY Councillors boarding buses and heading out to see for themselves the areas being subjected to planning applications could soon be a thing of the past.

That is if radical proposals to replace personal visits with aerial drones is accepted when members of Moray’s planning and regulatory services take a trial look at what the future could hold this morning.

A drone has been employed to undertake overhead filming of a 14-acre plot that Elgin Golf Club are seeking to develop as a new driving range. The radical method of surveying the situation on the ground could be much cheaper then buses committee members to sites in Moray.

Councillors will study a report that stems from talks held last year over alternatives to the current system of site visits, which can take several hours each and involves the costs of bus hire.

Officials undertaking a study into the use of drones have found that at around £550 for four overhead site visits and video production costs, the method of surveying sites can prove much cheaper than bussing committee members at around £110 for each return journey.

The report notes that the number of councillors actually attending site visits had fallen from an average of 10 (from 14 members) to as low as five. It is hoped that by using drones every committee member would have more understanding of the site issues concerned.

Report author Beverly Smith says: “A trial film has been commissioned on an expenses basis and should be available to view at Committee but at the time of writing the report it was not available to view and comment on.

“The full costs associated with producing a film covering 4 or 5 items would amount to £550 and this would include editing. The cost of the film can be compared to approximately 4 hours of Members and Officers’ time, as well as the cost of the bus which on average is £110 for a 55 mile round trip.”

Should members agree today that the use of drones as a substitute for some – but not all – site visits is a viable proposition, then a further report will be put before the Council’s policy and resources committee on the budget requirements of the plan.