• VCAT

November 1, 2020

What is the difference between a planning permit for a ‘use’ and a planning permit for ‘buildings and works’?

When talking about permit applications, many understand the difference between a planning permit and a building permit. Building permits relate to the method of construction of a building or development where planning permits is a legal document that allows a certain use and / or development on land. Most people are aware they need a planning permit to build or develop but few are aware of the need to get a planning permit to use a building for a specific use if is required within the zone, even if they don’t plan to build or develop. In this article, we will explain what is required in order to obtain a planning permit to use a building for a specific use if it is required within the zone.

In each of the planning zones, all uses are broken down into 3 sections:

Section 1 use – Permit not required

Section 2 use – Permit Required

Section 3 use – Prohibited

Each section lists out all the uses that fall under that specific section with the conditions applied to each specific use. It is important to check these table of uses for each property because a use can be a section 1 use in one particular zone and a section 3 use in another zone; but also each council can have different conditions applied to the same use.

Using a ‘Dwelling’ as an example, it is a Section 1 use under the General Residential Zone within City of Stonnington Planning Scheme but it is a Section 2 use under Industrial Zone 3 within the same planning scheme. This means the use of a building in the general residential zone for a dwelling is a ‘as of right’ use and you do not need council approval to use a building as a dwelling. However in the industrial 3 zone the use of a building for a dwelling requires council approval.

The use of a building as a dwelling is not prohibited in Industrial Zone 3 because it is listed as “Any other use not in Section 1 or 3” so a permit is required.

The categories are set this way because councils don’t want industrial land use to be incrementally eroded or creating a situation that will lead to conflicts between owners while keeping the options open and providing them with the flexibility to allow other uses in the future. If the council do decide to approve a permit for the use of a dwelling within an industrial zone, it is likely conditions such as sound proofing measures and soil test requirements are included in the permit.

When applying for a Change of Use planning permit for medical centres, gymnasiums, childcare centres and other commercial use or industrial use, a number of documents and information are required, a list of commonly required information is:

  • Description of the business
  • Hours of operation
  • Number of staff
  • Car parking assessment
  • Acoustics report

With the help of a professional town planner, most Change of Use permit applications will be approved if it is identified as a Section 2 use within the zone and almost all permits will have conditions attached.

Example 1 – A gymnasium is proposed next to General Residential Zone land.

A gym is likely to be classified as a Section 2 use in most zones with car parking conditions applied. In this example, the gym is also located closely to residential zone. When council is assessing the application, supply of on-site parking and noise level will be the main factors to be considered. With an appropriately prepared traffic management plan and acoustic report, the application is likely to be approved by council with conditions such as an operating time between 6am – 9pm and not more than a certain number of customers at any one time.

Example 2 – A restaurant (other than take away food premises) is proposed within an industrial zone

A restaurant is likely to be classified as a Section 2 use within an industrial zone, unlike a take away food premises, it is expected to customers will be on-site for a long period of time. If the car parking supply on-site is low and is not proposed to be increased as part of the application, the proposed Change of Use permit maybe approved by the council but due to the low car parking supply there may be stringent conditions such as the number of staff or customers permitted on site at any one time being capped.

A common pitfall of many business owners is to sign a lease on a building and not realise their business is a section 2 use and they need a council issued planning permit to use that building for their business. Even if their fitout of the building is exempt from a planning permit it is very likely they will need a planning permit for the use.

Change of Use permits are often combined with Buildings and Works permits. This means you apply to council for a dual approval as part of one planning application. When your permit is issued the title of what the permit allows will include use and buildings and works.  If you require assistance with permit applications, please feel free to contact our team and see how we can help you obtain a permit for your business smoothly.