What must a local planning authority take into account when deciding on planning applications & what sort of factors or comments will make a difference?
Local authorities will grant or refuse planning permission primarily on the basis of planning law and their own development plans. Camden also has to take account of The Mayor’s ‘London Plan’, and in West Hampstead, the Neighbourhood Development Plan as well.
If an application complies with these plans, the law normally presumes that planning permission will be granted. If it doesn’t comply, the law presumes that permission will be refused. However, both these ‘presumptions’ are subject to a further test – ‘material considerations’.
The Government’s Guidance on making planning decisions says that:
‘…the decision must be made in accordance with the development plan unless there are material considerations that indicate otherwise’ (taken from Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004).
A material planning consideration is a consideration which is relevant to the decision in question. Exactly what issues can be included as ‘material considerations’ are not codified in law, but in general, they have to be concerned with land use and the public good, not the protection of private interests. They may be pro or anti the application and may be put forward by the applicant, local people or anybody with an interest in the development.
Examples of issues relevant to development in West Hampstead that could be deemed to be material considerations are:
- Overlooking and loss of privacy
- Layout and density of building
- Overbearing nature of the proposal
- Design and appearance of materials
- Adequacy of infrastructure and / or social facilities
- Effect on surrounding area (including conservation areas)
(Whilst many of these appear generally in Camden’s own policies, it would still be relevant to comment on exactly how they relate to a particular development.
Examples of factors that would not normally be considered are:
- Loss of value to other properties
- Market competition
- Loss of a private individual’s view
- Boundary disputes
- Private covenants or agreements (covered by other legislation)
- The applicant’s personal conduct, history or circumstances
- The applicant’s motives or potential profit
- Age, health, background or work patterns of an objector
- Time taken to do the work, or other building or construction issues
The authority also has to take account of other planning considerations, such as:-
- Draft proposals in the local development plan which have not yet been ratified.
- Previous planning decisions (including appeals), for the sake of consistency
These lists are not exhaustive. Ultimately, it’s up to the courts to decide what constitutes a material consideration and this will depend on the circumstances of the case.
The ‘Planning Balance’
The process of weighing up all the competing factors is often called the ‘planning balance’. In making a decision, the planning authority must examine their development plans and take all the material considerations into account, according to their relative importance. This judgement is not the final responsibility of the courts. However, if the all various factors are not properly considered, the final decision may be unlawful.
Royal Town Planning Institute: ‘Material Planning Considerations” http://www.rtpi.org.uk/media/686895/Material-Planning-Considerations.pdf
East Riding of Yorkshire Council: ‘Material Planning Considerations’ http://www2.eastriding.gov.uk/environment/planning-and-building-control/planning-permission/view-and-comment-on-planning-applications/
Government Planning Portal: ‘Planning Practice Guidance’ http://planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/blog/guidance/determining-a-planning-application/how-must-decisions-on-applications-for-planning-permission-be-made/
Planning Aid for London: ‘Planning Decisions and Material Considerations’ Leaflet http://planningaidforlondon.org.uk/uploads/london/mainsite/downloads/publications/leaflets/planning%20material%20cons%20for%20web.pdf