Material Planning Matters

‘Planning is concerned with land use in the public interest


 What are material planning considerations? “To be material a consideration must be rationally related to land use issues and  capable of carrying some weight in the decision-making process, although plainly it  need not be determinative. Accordingly, “a consideration is ‘material’,…, if it is  relevant to the question whether the application should be granted or refused; that  is to say if it is a factor which, when placed in the decision-maker’s scales, would tip  the balance to some extent, one way or the other. In other words, it must be a  factor which has some weight in the decision-making process.

The scope of what can constitute a material consideration is very wide and so the courts often do not indicate what cannot be a material consideration. However, in general they have taken the view that planning is concerned with land use in the public interest, so that the protection of purely private interests such as the impact of a development on the value of a neighbouring property or loss of private rights to light could not be material considerations.

All the fundamental factors involved in land-use planning constitute a material consideration. This includes the number, size, layout, design and external appearance of buildings and the proposed means of access, together with landscaping, impact on the neighbourhood and the availability of infrastructure. A material consideration is a matter that should be taken into account in deciding a planning application or on an appeal against a planning decision.

Material considerations can include, but are not limited to:

  • The Planning Policy
  • Context
  • Need
  • Power to impose conditions
  • Natural Justice
  • Public Opinion
  • Consultations responses
  • Existing site uses and features
  • Layout, Design and Amenity Matters
  • Resources and Economic Factors
  • Social and Economic Matters
  • Precedent
  • Alternative Sites
  • Issues affecting Human Rights
  • Planning gain
  • The Planning History
  • Overlooking/loss of privacy
  • The visual impact on protected landscapes such as the Dorset AONB

View, or negative effect on the value of properties are not material considerations.

What weight can be given to a material consideration?

The law makes a clear distinction between the question of whether something is a material consideration and the weight which it is to be given. Whether a particular consideration is material will depend on the circumstances of the case and is ultimately a decision for the courts. Provided it has regard to all material considerations, it is for the decision maker to decide what weight is to be given to the material considerations in each case, and (subject to the test of reasonableness1.) the courts will not get involved in the question of weight.

A standard of unreasonableness used in assessing an application for judicial review of a public authority’s decision. A reasoning or decision is Wednesbury unreasonable (or irrational) if it is so unreasonable that no reasonable person acting reasonably could have made it (Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation (1948) 1 KB 223). The test is a different (and stricter) test than merely showing that the decision was unreasonable.

Paragraph: 009 Reference ID: 21b-009-20140306 Revision date: 06 03 2014  FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Here the Planning Portal’s guidance to material planning matters.

1.The Wednesbury unreasonableness test is a legal standard in the United Kingdom that is designed to establish that a particular action was fully unreasonable. This test is stricter than legally establishing that an action was just unreasonable.

This unreasonableness test is usually applied to applications for judicial review featuring a public authority’s decision. In order for a particular act to be Wednesbury unreasonable, it must be true that no reasonable person, who was acting in a reasonable manner at the moment in question, could have possibly performed the action. Acts which are deemed Wednesbury unreasonable are thought to be irrational.

Should an act be deemed Wednesbury unreasonable, the courts may be motivated to correct the act. Only the most extreme cases of unreasonable acts can pass the Wednesbury unreasonableness test, so very few courts have acted to correct the initial decision of the public official.

The term came from the 1948 case of Associated Provincial Picture Houses Limited versus the Wednesbury Corporation. The standard was established as a direct result of the court’s decision to only correct poor administrative decisions on the grounds that they were fundamentally irrational. Lord Diplock, the judge, stated acts will only be correct when based upon “…defiance of logic or accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question to be decided could have arrived at.”

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