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How planning decisions are made

The planning system can be confusing and complicated. This page explains how applications are processed and what concerns the council can and cannot take into account.  There are also sections on site visits and material considerations - such as design of a building and its impact on surrounding homes - that will be considered before a decision is made.

Medway Council receives planning applications for building work or to change how a property is used. These can come from private individuals, companies and other organisations.

The government target is for the council to make a decision on minor planning applications within eight weeks and major applications within 13 weeks, so it is important that the views of those affected are received as early as possible.

How decisions are made

The principal planners, who are senior council officers, make most decisions on applications to:

  • extend a home
  • build one new home
  • change the use of land or a property
  • carry out work on small business developments.

Major applications are decided by the Planning Committee, which meets every three weeks. Members of the public may go to the committee but they cannot speak.

What can be taken into account

By law the council can take account only of concerns which are recognised as material considerations. The main consideration is whether or not the application is in keeping with the Development Plan, which is made up of the Kent Structure Plan 1996 and the Medway Local Plan 2003. Various other documents also contribute to the decision-making process, including national guidance and Kent Design.

The Local Plan contains most of the policies used to make decisions, including policies on the design of developments, the effect they have on neighbours and protecting the countryside. These plans can be seen at the address at the foot of the page or at a local library.

Government guidance states that decisions should be made in line with the Development Plan unless other material considerations lead the council to decide otherwise.

Material considerations

  • The design of a development. The design should be high quality and in keeping with the original property and street scene
  • The effect on historic buildings, conservation areas and protected trees
  • The potential effect on homes nearby, including loss of light, loss of outlook, closeness, loss of privacy and noise disturbance
  • Any effect on vehicle, pedestrian or cycle safety.

These are not the only material considerations but the list shows the types of things that are taken into account.

What cannot be taken into account

The council's decisions must be based on recognised material considerations. If the council took account of other matters, or failed to take account of a material consideration, the decision could be challenged and overturned.

Some examples of matters that cannot be taken into account

  • Property covenants - Planning permission does not override any restriction or condition arising from a covenant and planning decisions cannot be based on a covenant
  • Right to Light Act 1959  - The council cannot take its provisions into account when considering planning applications
  • The effect on the value of a property  - A development may affect the value of a house or land but planning decisions cannot take this into account and there is no system for compensation
  • Loss of view - Although the council considers how close a new building would be to a window or garden, loss of view is not a planning matter
  • Competition - The planning system cannot be used to protect the income of a business or to promote one business over another. In some cases, the council tries to avoid losing some types of service (such as village pubs) or having too many services (such as takeaway food premises) in an area
  • Work that crosses the boundary between properties - People applying for planning permission must give notice to the owner of any land their work will go on to.

However, the council can give planning permission for a development that is partly or totally on their land. This includes foundations, guttering, eaves of a roof or other building work crossing over a boundary.

The planning permission does not give the applicant the right to carry out the development, as he or she will need their neighbour's permission.

  • Construction Details - These matters are dealt with under building regulations
  • Disturbance from construction work  - Construction work sometimes causes noise, dust and disturbance, particularly if it is close to people’s homes. The council cannot take such disturbance into account when considering planning applications. The council's Environmental Protection Team can advise on what can be done about these problems.

Site visits

A detailed site inspection will be carried out. Council officers can assess most planning applications without having to enter neighbouring premises. The officer may contact neighbours for information or to visit their property if this is necessary to assess an application.