Information Leaflet 7: Hierarchy of Planning Documents
Who decides the weight that is given to the various material considerations?
Where it is decided that a consideration is material to the determination of a planning application the courts have held that the assessment of weight is a matter for planning judgement by the planning authority, rather than the court. Accordingly it is for the Department to assess the weight to be attached to each material consideration.
The policies and guidance contained in the hierarchy of planning documents are the starting point for the Department in its assessment of development proposals and most decisions are usually taken in line with them.
However, the Department is legally obliged to consider all relevant matters in determining a planning application and this means that some decisions will not follow published policy or guidance. In other words, the Department may occasionally depart from published policy when it considers this is outweighed by other factors and can be justified in the circumstances of the particular case. Similarly, in making a decision where there are competing priorities and policies the Department must exercise its judgement in determining the balance of considerations.