• VCAT
The steps of a planning application

February 7, 2019

The steps of a planning application

The local council are the designated planning authority in the state of Victoria and they are the only body under the 1987 Planning and Environment act that can legally issue a planning permit.

This differs from a building permit that can be issued by a private practitioner in the state of Victoria. When you have confirmed that a planning permit is required for your use or development you will have to complete a planning permit application form and lodge it with your council. Along with the application form you will need to submit a recent copy of the title of the land, existing conditions plans and photos of the land and plans showing what the development or use will look like if approved. Once your application has been lodged with council it will be allocated to a town planner. They will oversee the application from start to finish, be the point of contact while the application is being processed, and will ultimately make the decision on whether to approve or refuse your application. The steps to be followed by an assessing council or responsible authority are set out in the Planning Scheme. The assessment is based upon whether or not the proposal is consistent with the strategic land use and development policy of contained in the planning scheme and the prescriptive development controls that apply to the use and development of the land. 

How Long Does Planning Approval Take in Victoria?

How long an application takes depends on the scale and complexity of the development along with the efficiency of the particular council processing the application. However most applications will take a minimum of 3 – 6 months to be decided.  Here are the four stages that every planning application will go through.

1. Further information

Within 28 days of the application being lodged the assessing council town planner will issue a written request for further information or a request for amendments to the application. Nearly all planning applications will receive a further information request from council. There will be a date by which the requested information or amendments must be responded to and submitted to council. The deadline is usually around two months from the date of the initial request.  However if you are having trouble collecting the required information then there is the opportunity to apply for an extension of time. 

Victorian councils can have a range of reasons for requesting further information and section 54 of the Planning and Environment Act gives them the legal framework to do so. However any request from assessing council planner within council will be based on the following:

  • Confirming the definition of the land use and development being applied for as defined under the planning scheme. A typical example of a common land use application that is undefined in the planning scheme is a gymnasium. Although everyone is broadly aware of what a gymnasium is it is defined as an indoor recreation facility under the planning scheme and any application for a gymnasium must be identified as an indoor recreation facility on the application from lodged with council.  
  • Confirming the use or development is permitted under the zoning and overlay planning controls affecting the land. For example a residential land use is a prohibited development within industrially zoned land throughout Victoria. This means that any application for such a development within this zone will be rejected. Overlay controls can specify maximum and minimum height controls that development must comply with. If an application exceeds these minimum’s it will be rejected. The further information request from Council will point any noncompliance’s with the zone and overlay requirements for applicants and usually give them an opportunity to amend their application to address these issues in line with Section 50 and 57 A of the 1987 Planning and Environment Act.
  • Confirming that the application conforms to the Local Planning Policy Framework contained within the Municipal Strategic Statement and Clauses 20 – 40 of the planning scheme. If the application does not conform with any specific objectives or strategies of these clauses the applicant will be given an opportunity to amend the application so that compliance is achieved.  

Planning Schemes are long and complex documents that include a myriad of objectives for future development. Very often there can be conflicting objectives for outcomes earmarked for a specific area or site. When this occurs the applicant must demonstrate that their application demonstrates compliance with the thrust of the overall objectives of the planning scheme. When there are conflicting objectives the assessing council planner can provide their opinion of which objectives display the highest importance for applicants to meet.  

2. Advertising time

Once the town planner is satisfied with the further information response the application is ready to be advertised. A sign is erected on the site advertising the planning application to the public for a period of 14 days. Council also send letter to neighbours and property owners that will be affected by the development to notify them of the application and give them the opportunity to comment. These comments typically come in the form of objections. The town planner will take these objections into consideration when deciding on the application.

If there are enough objections then the council will call a consultant meeting. This meeting is organised in order to bring planning permit applicants and objectors together, so that each party can discuss their points of view and be fully informed of issues with the application. It is to help assist in reaching an agreeable outcome for both the applicant and the objectors.

3. The decision

This is the final stage in the application process. The town planner will make their decision taking into consideration the planning objectives and controls in the area and how well the development meets these objectives.  Applications are referred to other relevant departments in council or referral authorities for comment. For example VicRoads may comment on the road access and safety of a development.  These comments are reviewed by the town planner and help to form part of their decision. Any objections from neighbours will also be taken into consideration.

The council will either approve or refuse the application and issue one of the following; a planning permit, a notice of decision to grant a planning permit or a refusal.

4. After the decision

Planning Permit

A planning permit forms part of your planning approval and will be issued with around twenty to forty conditions attached to it.  Before the final approval is given the conditions of the permit must be met.  Once the conditions have been met the council will endorse the development plans and you have your full planning approval and are ready to begin organising everything you need for your building permit. A planning permit will usually be issued with a two year timeframe to start a development and a four year timeframe to complete. This means you must have started the development within two years of the date of issue of the permit or the permit expires. 

Notice of decision 

If there has been objections to your application the council will issue you with a notice of decision to grant a permit instead of an actual planning permit. This gives objectors 28 days to appeal the decision at VCAT if they wish. If no appeals are made then the council will issue the planning permit after the 28 days.

Refusal of a permit

A refusal will be issued if the council believe that the application is unsatisfactory or that the design does not comply with the planning rules. The reasons for the decision will be outlined in the refusal. You have 60 days from when the refusal is issued to appeal the decision at VCAT.

If you do decide to go to VCAT a hearing date will be set and the case will be decided by a VCAT member. There is the option to further amend the plans before the hearing date if you wish.