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:
- Planning Appeals lodged fell dramatically compared to the 2020 – 21 calendar year.
- A transition to online hearings has led to increased party engagement and lengthier cases.
- 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.