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The majority of people are aware that planning applications can be subject to objection by members of the public. However, this does not translate to mean the application will be refused if objections are lodged. Nor does it mean that a proposal must be altered to address objectors feedback.

So why do objectors get disgruntled when proposals are supported?

One obvious answer is because they have a vested interest in the outcome.  

Another simple cause is false expectations.  

The planning process in Victoria fosters the ideal that members of the public should be involved and influence planning outcomes. However, there is a distinction between an invitation to share your opinions and the weight your opinion will be given by decision makers. The purpose of the public advertising process of a planning application is an invitation to respond, however you would be forgiven for thinking that it is an invitation to decide whether a proposal should be approved.

A critical feature of public advertising process of applications is that it elicits a response from people, distinct from a process which informs people. People are requested to respond through a direct letter, email or viewing a large florescent poster on a site advising of the application.

The fact that some people feel obliged to contact council to inform them they are unaffected by a proposal supports the notion that the planning permit advertising process solicits objections.

Below is typical boilerplate text that appears on a council issued public notification letter or poster about a planning application. Some notable features of the language:

  1. It does not inform people that objections must be based on the planning scheme;
  2. The phrase ‘may be affected’ has negative connotations that will elicit a fearful response;
  3. It explicitly invites people to explain ‘how’ they will be affected with no qualification criteria to set expectations of what can be considered;
  4. It implies that objections based on perceived impacts are given weight.

Objections themselves are not the issue. The issue is the false expectation the process creates.

A person who has been elicited to provide their opinion through a direct letter will conclude their opinion is held with higher regard than if their view was not actively sought out.

This is a seminal reason for confusion and feelings of being ignored when a planning decision is not consistent with an objectors views. It is a fair observation that the active solicitation of their opinion created the perception that their opinion would form the basis of the decision.

This matter recently came to the fore in a VCAT decision where objectors had lodged an appeal against Booroondara’s council approval of a house extension and renovation at 69 Broadway, Camberwell. The grounds of appeal lodged by the objectors included heritage impacts related to demolition. However heritage grounds were struck out by the tribunal as there were no third party appeal rights under this heritage overlay. This means, compliance of the development with the overlay was subject to councils assessment only and no objectors had the right of appeal to this assessment.

This decision was unsurprising can be read in full here; however it does raise some questions about the planning process and procedural fairness, specifically –

  • Why did the objectors form the incorrect view about their appeal rights?
  • Should there have been an obligation on the objectors to be informed?
  • It also begs the question, is this fair on the planning permit applicant?
  • Would a planning permit applicant be given the same flexibility if, for example they had not met their ‘application requirements’ under the scheme?  
  • Would it lead to greater transparency in the process if there was a greater ‘burden of proof’ on objectors to substantiate their grounds.

There is a compelling argument to suggest the objections process is overly accessible and this has created an unnecessary delay to approvals being issued. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to lodge an objection and an appeal at VCAT. Self representation is permitted so there is little financial burden on proponents to run an appeal. 

The ability of objectors to be involved in outcomes is undoubtedly an important part of the planning process that exists in almost every country in some form. We don’t question whether objectors should be involved, however when we compare the expectations of planning permit applicants in meeting their obligations in seeking approval, to the ease at which objectors can object and lodge appeals, it is clear the balance in the process is disproportionately skewed towards making it ‘easy’ for objectors. It appears, permit applicants are expected to largely accept this as the ‘cost of doing business’ and this is an issue for the industry.

The Victorian Planning process is likely to undergo some significant changes on the back of the state governments commitment to build 80,000 homes each year in Victoria between 2024 – 2034. Objector appeal rights is an area the government has already targeted by removing appeal rights entirely for specific projects that you can read about here. The industry will benefit if this process continues for more classes of planning applications and it will remove the issue of false expectations being fostered by the planning process.  

This headline formed part of the governments explanatory report for planning changes announced on the 12th February 2024 in relation to business and uses that rely on the presence of existing use rights as the basis for approval. The sweeping state-wide change makes it easier for proponents to obtain the required council planning approval for an existing business or use based on the often maligned existing use rights of the planning scheme. VC254 introduced changes to the language within clause 63.01 of the planning scheme that essentially allows applicants to rely on the clause if the use or business had been carried out for 15 continuous years at any time before the date of the planning application being lodged.

Prior to the change, the use had to be carried out for 15 continuous years directly prior to the date the planning application was lodged. This change affords applicants greater flexibility to make an application relying on existing use rights even if the council has directed the use to cease immediately and before a planning application is lodged. Prior to this, if a use ceased at the direction of council, existing use rights fell away on the basis that the cessation represented a break in the 15 years continuous criteria.

The rationale behind the change is to allow for a fairer assessment of an application made under the existing use clause of the planning scheme. The explanatory report states the amendment ‘supports fair access and assessment for people seeking to prove existing use rights. The amendment addressed the potential detrimental impacts on business and people who should be able to apply for their existing use rights to be considered fairly’.   

Thoughts

Applications that rely on clause 63.01 of the planning scheme generally suffer from a negative stating point in the assessment. Very often the uses or business have incurred complaints from the public and sometimes are even prohibited uses in the zone. They are also retrospective applications by nature which contributes to the negative bias. Traditionally, assessing council planners will set an incredibly high bar for a use or business to prove beyond a doubt that it existed for 15 continuous years. Applicants are required to provide a myriad of historic documents about the use or business that includes, rates notices, tax returns, company registrations and financial statements. Due to this complexity, it is often a more pragmatic approach to apply for a fresh permit for the use or business under a standard planning permit process and not rely on existing use rights whatsoever. This approach is only an option where a business or use is a Section 2, permit required use within a zone. Where it is a section 3, prohibited use, an application under existing use rights maybe the only viable prospect for approval. The latest change to the rules will undoubtedly provide applicants greater flexibility to make an application, however it will not make it any easier to obtain the approval after the application has been made.

This heading was how managing principal of Cera Stribley Architects, Dom Cerantonio described the government decision to provide boilerplate town planning drawings for the nominal fee of $150. The government say the measure is aimed at incentivising the development industry to partake in the scheme. Four boilerplate apartment designs have been released, that will all be fast tracked for approval on specific sites.  

The plans contain enough detail required for a planning permit approval. Anyone that avails of the initiative will enjoy a streamlined planning approval process of 21 business days, and importantly the approval will be exempt from appeal by objectors at VCAT. The government have also published an interactive map at this link, that it says identifies potential sites suitable for any one of the four sets of template plans they are providing.  

The initiative is part of the state governments ‘Future Homes’, a commitment to solving the housing crisis and making it easier to obtain necessary approvals. However some architects and designers claim the initiative fly’s in the face of good design principles and that great architecture isn’t something that can be picked up and ‘plonked’ on a site.

The government say the designs can be ‘adapted’ to a site and do advise participants that a private designer or architect will need to be appointed to complete this exercise. The development of the four boilerplate plans was a a result of a design competition run in 2020 and is a joint initiative between the Department of Transport and Planning and the Office of the Victorian Government Architect.

The set of drawings include:

  • Floor plans, elevations, sections and façade details.
  • Floor areas, storage areas and breeze paths.
  • Three different development layout options for 13-17 apartments, including at-grade and basement car parking options and different site orientations.
  • Example site plan showing the landscape concept integration.

The goal of the future homes scheme is to introduce ‘gentle density’ to the general residential zones, which the government describes as modest infill development that makes the most of existing urban land.

Thoughts

The initiative is demonstrative of the governments appetite to increase housing supply within the established urban areas of the middle ring suburbs. The glaring issue with the use of boilerplate designs is that they are not site or context specific. This is contrary to first principles of good planning outcomes, that require that a design be responsive to lot orientation, shape, dimensions and topography. Built form character assessment also falls away with the use of templates where the assessment is based on prescriptive rather than descriptive outcomes. This is pertinent because demonstrating compatibility with established neighbourhood character is so often the most contentions aspect of assessing apartment developments. The government have been unambiguously clear that the boilerplate designs will need to be adopted to the specific features of a site. From this perspective the designs can be seen as a starting point, rather than a finished product. This will appeal to some developers and designers and understandably aggravate others. The intent of the government initiative is clear and is supported by a 21 business days turnaround to approval. The success of the initiative will depend on the appetite of the development industry for the templates provided.      

In a commitment made by then Premier Daniel Andrews via a September 2023 press release, the Labour government promised to introduce an exemption from a planning permit for second dwellings up to 60 square metres commonly called granny flats.

The Allen government have now backflipped on that commitment, instead electing to reduce the requirements for such dwellings. On the 14th December 2023, planning schemes were amended statewide via amendment VC254 to formally introduce the term ‘small second dwelling’ and requirements for the approval of such dwellings.

The definition of a small second dwelling introduced to planning schemes is:

A building with a gross floor area of 60 square metres or less, on the same lot as an existing dwelling and used as a self contained residence which must include:

  • A Kitchen sink
  • Food preparation facilities
  • A bath or shower and
  • A toilet or washbasin.

If a proposed second dwelling is on a lot less than 300 square metres then it remains subject to a planning permit application but can avail of the fast track Vicsmart process in residential, township, and mixed use zones. A permit is not required on lots greater than 300 square metres in these zones.

In other zones, such as the Green Wedge zone or Rural Conservation zone, a small second dwelling is subject to a standard planning assessment regardless of the lot size.

Where a permit is triggered, the amendment has introduced new standards to rescode which are exclusively applicable to small second dwellings:

  1. New standard A9 requires that front walls of the new dwelling be setback behind front walls of the existing dwelling on the lot.
  2. New standard A9.1 sets out minimum pathway widths and gradients for pedestrian access from the site frontage to the new dwelling.  
  3. Updated standard A17 requires the second dwelling to have a minimum outdoor secluded open space of 8 square metres with a minimum dimension of 1.6 metres. 

Small second dwellings must also comply with all the prescriptive off site amenity impact objectives and standards related to:

  1. Side and rear setbacks (standard A10)
  2. Walls on boundaries (standard A11)
  3. Daylight to existing windows (standard A12)
  4. North facing Windows (standard A13)
  5. Overshadowing (standard A14)
  6. Overlooking (standard A15)
  7. Noise impacts (standard B24)

The term Dependant persons unit has been replaced with the term small second dwelling in all planning schemes. The rationale behind this change was to ensure that anyone could occupy the home and also remove any ambiguity that a moveable dwelling is considered a small second dwelling.

A new section related to subdivision has been added to the residential zones that reads:

A permit must not be granted which would allow a separate lot to be created for land containing a small second dwelling.

A conditional exemption for small second dwellings has been introduced for residentially zoned properties subject to a heritage overlay.  

There are no prescriptive car parking requirements specified for small second dwellings.

Thoughts

The amendment seeks to unlock housing supply on lots greater than 300 square metres in residentially zoned areas and mixed-use zones. It permits the establishment of a small second dwelling in the Green wedge and Rural conservation zone but the fact these applications are subject to a standard planning assessment will deter people in these areas from making an application in our opinion.

Overall, the amendment is a step in the right direction and goes someway to easing the housing crisis. However, with the size of the dwellings confined to 60 square metres or less, it is a very niche housing type and for that reason will be of limited benefit to solving the housing supply issue facing the state. Its reasonably likely that the big winners will be downsizers, allowing their adult children to move into the main residence with a growing family, while they can also remain on the property.

In one of his last acts as premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews announced the most significant planning reforms for the state of Victoria in the last decade. The former premier was unapologetic in his criticism of local Victorian councils making political decisions that have resulted in a bottle neck in housing supply for the state of Victoria. The premier took specific aim at Stonnington and Yarra councils in a  press release from 21st September , stating that the former rejected almost one in every five applications and the latter progressed only 38% of planning applications within the statutory timeframe.

One of the major reforms of amendment VC 243 aimed at removing local politics from planning decisions was the replacement of the locally elected councillors by the CEO of Council as the decision maker for planning applications for apartment developments that meet a small list of criteria.

Changes to how Rescode operates

In a further measure aimed at removing the subjectivity around planning assessments, Rescode has been ‘codified’, meaning that if a design response meets a prescriptive standard, then the associated objective is met and there is no discretion for decision makers such as Council or VCAT to assess it any further. This will create more certainty of outcome for permit applicants.

The maximum building height standard of rescode remains unchanged but the part of the standard that specifies that ‘Changes of building height between existing buildings and new buildings should be graduated’ has been deleted to remove any exercise of discretion by decision makers.

Likewise the maximum height of a front fence remains unchanged but that part of the standard that specifies “The design of front fences should complement the design of the dwelling or residential building and any front fences on adjoining properties” has been deleted form the standard.

Exemptions for single dwellings and dwelling extensions

A single dwelling or extension on a lot greater than 300 square metres will no longer be subject to a planning approval in the General Residential, Neighbourhood residential or Township zones. Previously, local councils had the ability to require a permit under a schedule to these zones but that ability has now been removed and a blanket exemption applies across zones.

Where a single dwelling or extension is proposed on a lot less than 300 square metres in any of the aforementioned residential zones or the mixed use zone, the application is subject to assessment of five rescode standards and qualifies for assessment under the Vicsmart process. The five rescode standards are the prescriptive standards for side and rear setbacks, walls on boundaries, daylight to existing windows, north facing windows, overshadowing and overlooking.

A front fence within 3 metres of street on a lot less than 300 square metres requires a permit where the fence exceeds 2 metres in height along streets in the Transport Zone 2 and 1.5 metres in other streets.

These exemptions do not create exemptions from requirements to obtain a planning permit under other provisions of a planning scheme. This means that triggers for dwellings, dwelling extensions or front fences under overlay controls will continue to apply.

New Particular Provision – “Future Homes”

A new standalone particular provision has been introduced, specifically for apartments that minimises the number of design standards these developments are subject to assessment against. The reduced assessment applies only to those apartment designs that meet the below criteria:

  • The development must be an apartment development.
  • The design must use a licenced exemplar design approved under the Future Homes project overseen by the Department of Transport and Planning.

The site must meet these criteria:

  • Must be in the General Residential Zone
  • Must be within 800 metres of a passenger railway station; or
  • Must be within 800 metres of a metropolitan, major or neighbourhood activity centre in Metropolitan Melbourne; or
  • Must be within 800 metres of an activity centre outside Metropolitan Melbourne; and
  • Must not be within a Heritage Overlay or Neighbourhood Character Overlay.

Where a site and proposal meet the above requirements, a design response is not subject to assessment against the objectives or standards of the residential zone, Clause 58, Clause 52.06 for car parking supply and design or Clause 52.34 for bicycle parking supply and facilities. The proposal is not exempt from public notification, but it is exempt from third party review rights at VCAT.

The new provision specifies that the CEO of council is the delegated decision maker for these applications in lieu of the locally elected councillors. It also installs the Secretary to Department of Transport and Planning as a determining referral authority for these applications meaning that the local council is obliged to refuse an application where the state government object.

For an application to avail of this provision, the applicant must first seek preapplication support in writing from the Department of Transport and planning within three months of the application being lodged with the local council.

The basis for the changes

This a far-reaching amendment with various aims at targeted sections of the planning process. The aims can be summarised in a concise list as:

  • Removing the need for planning approval for single dwellings or extensions on standard residential lots.
  • Ensuring a ten day turnaround and a reduced list of requirements for dwellings or extensions on smaller lots in standard residential zones.
  • Creating more certainty of outcome for applicants subject to a rescode assessment.
  • Removing local politics and NIMBY VCAT appeals from the decision-making process for apartment developments in strategically located sites in the general residential zone.

Future Changes

The premier also announced the government’s intent to make second dwellings exempt from requiring a planning permit for units less than 60 square meters and codification of further rescode standards to remove any exercise of discretion. These changes were not included as part of the statewide amendment formalised into planning schemes on September 22nd 2023.

Thoughts

The new provision 53.24, “Future Homes” is the most significant inclusion in the amendment. It will undoubtedly remove the local politics from the planning process for these types of projects and will no doubt be of concern for locally elected councillors and residents. We hope the department of transport and planning has the resources to process the numerous incoming requests for the required preapplication consent letters over the next six months across the middle ring suburbs of Melbourne.  

The removal of planning permit triggers for single dwellings and extensions in residential zones will absolutely assist ‘Mums and Dads’ in saving time and money and be of huge benefit to them.

The codifying of Rescode creates the obvious drawback of the removal of the ability for decision makers to exercise discretion to require increased setbacks and the like where sensitive interfaces or character outcomes are more important than ticking the rescode box. However, this is an acceptable trade off in our assessment because of the absolute certainty for applicants that is created.

The amendment marked Daniel Andrews last major change as premier of the state of Victoria.

The WA premier announced sweeping changes on the 23rd February 2023 and made no secret of his criticism of local councils and desire to replace them with a more objective planning committee to make more expedited decisions for major projects. In a presentation at the Property Council, the premier stated ‘We’re all tired of quality multi-dwelling proposals becoming a vehicle for grandstanding by anti-development councils and individuals facing re-election at local council level’.

What is proposed?

Under the changes there will be 3 permanent planning committees for WA, one each for the inner urban, and outer metropolitan Perth and one for regional areas. Each committee will consist of 10 qualified, experienced members who will decide on planning applications. The premier stated the changes were aimed at “Ensuring there is a consistent approach to planning across our growing city is essential, and this second tranche of reforms continues our government’s ambitious reform agenda’, you can read the governments press release here.

The changes seek to make permanent temporary measures that were introduced during the covid 19 pandemic to ensure major projects continued to be streamlined during the pandemic. The government believe the changes made in response to the pandemic resulted in improved consistency of decisions and seek to make them permanent. The core focus of the WA government continues to be infrastructure projects but they have lessened the criteria for what can be considered a project of state and regional significance that would be subject to a 120 day timeframe for assessment and decision post lodgement. The reduced criteria includes applications as minor as multiple dwelling applications with a construction cost of more than $2 million, you can read more about the changes proposed here.    

Planning Minister Rita Saffioti denied the reforms were aimed at cutting local council out of the planning process in a press interview but did criticise Councils for not making timely updates to their planning schemes and relying on policies that are 20 years old or more. The minister stated that the local council still retains a critical role in the future planning of their areas through creation of their planning schemes.  

What has been the reaction of local government?

Local councillors, and the WA Local Government Association (WALGA), say it leaves local voices shut out of the conversation.

‘What’s wrong with that?’

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that if you want to build a house … or you want to do a development that creates opportunities for people to live, that you can get through that process more effectively, efficiently and quickly. Now what’s wrong with that?” the premier responded.  

Opposition leader Shane Love acknowledged change was needed to support the future densities forecast in WA but stated “I think it’s pretty clear this government doesn’t think there’s a place for communities in community planning, and that’s very unfortunate.”

Are the changes good for the industry?

The influence of local politics in planning decisions is ubiquitous in all states and territories of Australia and indeed around the world. The changes announced in Western Australia are clearly a robust response aimed at removing the politics from the process. Critics of this approach will point to the loss of input from residents and the public to development outcomes as an unreasonable cost of the changes. The benefits of removing politics and ‘NIMBYISM’ from planning decisions will undoubtedly reduce red tape and ensure quicker delivery of housing and other infrastructure but it also reduces the opportunities for transparency in the system. Akin to most major industry changes, there will be benefits and consequences of the changes that will become evident with the course of time. We don’t foreshadow a similar scale of changes to the planning system here in Victoria under the new minister Sonya Kilkenny but we certainly hope the Victorian government is keenly observing the changes.

The imperative of environmental sustainability is continuing to be heightened in the building industry. In January 2023 Wyndham City Council advised frequent applicants that all residential planning applications submitted after February 1st 2023 will be required to submit a Nathers energy rating report achieving a minimum of 6.5 stars or above for single dwellings and a minimum of 6 stars for apartments. The minimum energy rating requirements will increase from 1st May 2023 to 7 stars for single dwellings and an average 7 stars for apartment buildings.

Energy rating reports are a mainstay of the building permit process but they are an emerging requirement for planning applications across a number of Victorian Councils. Building Sustainability has been at the forefront of changes to the industry over the last decade and continues to become more relevant to residential planning applications as state and local governments seek a proactive approach to measures being committed to as part of planning approval. Most Victorian Councils now have a standalone sustainability policy within the planning scheme that sets out minimum measures that must be implemented within developments as part of planning approval and we have seen an upsurge of Councils hiring full time environmental sustainability professionals to review planning applications to ensure best practice is being implemented. Traditionally, the environmental performance of a development was covered as part of the building permit. However, all tiers of government are seeking a more proactive approach and a greater opportunity for oversight by implementing policies that are triggered at the planning approval stage.

We expect to see this trend continue in Victoria, with more and more councils choosing more oversight during the planning application assessment. The merit of this approach is obvious; however difficulties arise when applicants have to make decisions and commitments about finished building materials too early in the project. For example, the commonly used BESS report required by many local councils requires the applicant to specify the taps, shower heads and washing machine models that will be used within a development. This granular level of detail has often not been considered by the applicant at the town planning stage of a project so completion of the report becomes a ‘tick the box’ exercise for applicants to get planning approval. Another challenge is the cost of implementing sustainable building methods and applicants having to undertake commitments to implement costly measures in the interests of getting the required town planning approval.  

The imperative of constructing environmentally sustainable buildings is obvious and it is an evolving discipline that is in its relative infancy. As technology advances we expect to see cost efficiencies and improved methods continue to emerge. Please contact us If you are curious to understand what level of sustainability detail is required for your planning application to be approved.          

On the 10th January 2023 the panel released its report on the latest proposed amendment by Monash council to increase the contribution permit applicants must make for public open space to 10%. This is not the first time the panel have rejected councils proposed hike, having previously rejected a similar proposal in 2020 which you can read about here. Although the panel did not support councils proposed 10% hike, they were supportive of a 7.61% contribution.

The current rate of subdivision contributions for public open space is capped at 5% of the unimproved value of the site under the subdivisions act. If approved the new rate will be applicable to all subdivision applications within the municipality and is payable before council issue statement of compliance for the subdivision. Councils rationale for the hike is that the housing supply is increasing which in turn is increasing the demand on public open spaces and parks which council need to pay to upkeep, upgrade and maintain.

The panel concurred with council that an increase was appropriate and that it should apply to both residential and non residential subdivision applications, however the panel was critical of how council had projected the costs of future land acquisition and community infrastructure such as public parks.   

You can read the full panel report here, council must now consider whether they will adopt the recommendation of the panel for a reduced rate than originally sought. This would result in an adjustment to the current amendment proposal or alternatively council could choose to abandon the amendment or let it lapse akin to what happened in 2020. We believe its unlikely council will allow the amendment to lapse this time and will likely continue with the amendment application to the state government in some form.

In late December 2022 the tribunal finalised its annual report and tabled it to the Victorian Parliament. The key takeaways from the report we took were:

  1. Planning Appeals lodged fell dramatically compared to the 2020 – 21 calendar year.
  2. A transition to online hearings has led to increased party engagement and lengthier cases.
  3. The tribunal will continue its commitment to transitioning to a more digital setting for cases where possible.

The number of cases lodged under the planning and environment list was 1,731, a 14% reduction compared to the 2020 – 21 calendar year.  The report acknowledged that the overall time taken to finalise cases has increased but attributed this to the increased participation by parties due to improved accessibility created by online hearings. This correlates with the increase in cases listed for longer than three days from 0.5% to 4%. The median number of weeks taken to finalise cases increased by 14% to 33 weeks from 29 weeks in the previous calendar year. The total number of cases finalised by the tribunal was 1,962 , a 2% increase compared to last year. The numbers of both the ‘major cases’ list and the standard cases list fell dramatically by 16% and 14% respectively. Finally, the total number of VCAT members fell from 201 to 195, but the number of full-time staff increased from 263 to 270. The report can be read at this link and reaffirms the commitment of the tribunal to continue its transition to a more digital setting.

The effects of Covid 19 had a heavy influence on the industry in 2022 and could explain the decline in cases being lodged throughout the year. 2022 was the third year of living with the pandemic and there was little disruption of lockdowns so we were surprised to learn the total number of planning appeals fell compared to 2021. The tribunals commitment to continuing its transition to a more digital setting is unsurprising but paradoxically this appears to be lengthening the time cases are taking to resolve as access becomes easier for parties. We look forward to transitioning to more face to face interactions for matters in 2023 but we concur that online hearings are here to stay and lead to a more efficient outcome for some matters. If you have an upcoming case at VCAT click here to discover how to know if you have a case and what VCAT consider as part of a town planning appeal.

The tribunal has announced it will be expanding the number of matters listed for a compulsory conference (mediation) from 1st January 2023. The change will mainly effect cases listed in the ‘standard planning’ list and cases within the fast track, short cases or major cases list are not expected to be effected. There will be a staged approach to the expansion:

  • Appeals lodged by a planning permit applicant under section 79 of the Planning and Environment Act where a responsible authority has failed to make a decision within 60 statutory days will be listed for a compulsory conference from 1st January 2023.
  • Appeals lodged by a planning permit applicant under section 80 of the act against any conditions applied to a planning permit by a Responsible Authority will be listed for a compulsory conference from the 1st April 2023.
  • Appeals lodged by a planning permit applicant under section 77 of the act against a refusal of a permit application by the Responsible Authority will be listed for a compulsory conference from 1st July 2023 where a hearing of 2 or more days is required.
  • Appeals lodged by a permit applicant against a refusal where the hearing is listed for 1 day or less will be listed for a compulsory conference from the 1st October 2023.

The tribunal forecasts that conferences will be completed 10 – 12 weeks before hearing dates. VCAT have also reaffirmed that proceedings under the major cases list and objector appeals lodged under section 82 of the act will continue to be listed for compulsory conferences and proceedings under the fast track or short cases list will be listed for a hearing only.

The announcement comes days after the publication of the VCAT annual report which can be read at this link. This announcement clearly outlines the tribunals intention to mediate planning outcomes rather than a ‘winner takes all’ scenario of a hearing. It is our experience that compulsory conferences can be successful where parties have a clear vision on what they want to achieve prior to the conference and acknowledge that some compromises on their behalf must be made in the interests of settling the dispute. We urge all participants to prepare a clear position you can communicate to all parties if you have an upcoming matter listed for a compulsory conference. Our experts are vastly experienced at these conferences and can help you frame your position in a clear and concise way that can result in a successful compulsory conference.