Colman v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, North Devon District Council, RWE Npower Renewables Limited (2013)

This case concerns the way in which local development plan policies should be considered alongside other material considerations in determining a planning application.

It was argued that since material considerations arising out of the NPPF would always be relevant to the grant of development permission, they should be “read into” the relevant polices in the local development plan. The applicant thereby sought to establish that there was no inconsistency between the local development plan and the NPPF. As the relevant policies were out of date, the weight to be given to them depended on their consistency with the NPPF.

The judge rejected this argument on the basis that “it is a fundamental and long established principle of planning law that something identified as a “material consideration” ... is conceptually distinct from considerations identified in the development plan and does not ceteris paribus carry the same weight as an aim or consideration identified in the development plan itself. It is, therefore, essential, both analytically and in policy terms, to separate objectives or considerations specifically set out in the development plan from something else that can count only as another ‘material consideration’”.

We posted a blog about this case in May but recently had cause to consider how planning reports recently issued follow with the decision. It is notable that some planning officers do clearly follow this “fundamental principle” in their reports, clearly separating out their analysis of development plan polices from relevant material considerations. In other reports however this distinction is less apparent. This judgement is a helpful reminder of how local plan policies, the NPPF and material considerations should be analysed and how each weigh in the overall decision.