The Scottish Government's Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) annual review for 2008-09 shows that it took around 12 weeks to decide such cases rather than 17.
More than half the body's written cases, which are the bulk of its work, were decided over 12 weeks in the first three months of this year. It follows a self-imposed target to achieve this speed of decision-making, now rolled out to all planning authorities.
The DPEA received 1,405 cases, fewer than the previous year's 1,447, partly because of the downturn, but it processed more cases. The number in hand at the end of the year was 634, down from 810 in 2007-08.
All bar one of its ministerial targets were met despite a large number of lengthy public inquiries and complex cases, the review adds.
The most high-profile and contentious cases include Donald Trump's luxury golf resort in Aberdeenshire, the Beauly-Denny transmission line and the Aberdeen western bypass. Decisions on the latter two are yet to be announced by ministers.
Planning minister Stewart Stevenson thanked the DPEA for delivering improvements. "If this pace is maintained over 12 months, more than 80 years of dead time annually will be removed from the appeals system," he said.
DPEA Annual Review 2008-2009 is available at PlanningResource.co.uk/doc