Planning approvals

We can help you navigate development approvals in Victoria.

We offer free-of-charge specialist advice on the development approvals process. We can help you understand the development approvals process in Victoria and provide specific advice on licence and permit requirements for your project.

For a confidential discussion regarding your project please contact us.

A planning permit is required if indicated by a planning scheme

The Planning and Environment Act 1987 provides a framework for land use and development in Victoria. Each local government municipality has planning schemes. A planning scheme will indicate if a planning permit is required to change the land use, construct a building, or make other changes to the land.

A planning scheme generally consists of:

  • Maps showing land zonings and overlays;
  • Ordinances that specify land use controls for each zone and overlay;
  • State and local planning policies, including a Municipal Strategic Statement.

Understanding planning zones and overlays

A zone identifies the primary purpose of land, such as industrial, rural, business or residential. It also indicates appropriate land use within that zone.

For each zone ordinances set out land use controls in three sections (sometimes conditional)

  • Section 1: land uses that do not require a permit;
  • Section 2: land uses that require a permit; and
  • Section 3: land uses that are prohibited.

For example in Industrial 1 Zone:

  • A service station is a Section 1 use and does not require a planning permit subject to meeting the condition alongside it (distance threshold from specified sensitive uses). If the condition cannot be met, the use will require a permit.
  • Materials recycling is a Section 2 use and requires a planning permit. If the condition alongside it (distance threshold) cannot be met, then the use becomes prohibited.
  • A hospital is a Section 3 use and therefore is prohibited in the Industrial 1 Zone.

Ordinances also set out controls and requirements for buildings, works and subdivision. These will vary across different zones.

Overlays may also exist in certain locations to provide special planning controls for particular considerations such as vegetation, heritage, flooding and built form.

What is a planning permit?

A planning permit allows the use or development of land for a specific purpose. Conditions may be attached to the permit to ensure the land is used or developed in an appropriate way.

Planning permit process

1.  Before making the application

  • find out about the planning scheme;
  • talk to the local council planner and neighbours;
  • talk to us;
  • consider using professional consultancies.

2.  Prepare and submit the application to local council

  • application information;
  • application form;
  • fee.

3.  Council checks the application and may request

  • more information
  • referral

4.   Application is advertised if required

  • for at least 14 days;
  • usually by letter to neighbours, a sign on-site and possible an advertisement in the paper;
  • people affected may object.

5.   Council assesses the application

  • considers any objections;
  • holds mediation meeting if needed;
  • considers any referral comments;
  • assesses planning scheme provisions;
  • negotiates with permit applicant;
  • prepares report.

6.  Council decides the application

  • Permit with conditions;
  • Notice of decision with conditions;
  • Refusal.

7.  Review by VCAT if applied for;

  • by the permit applicant against conditions or refusal;
  • by an objector against notice of decision (in circumstances where this right exists).

Source“Planning: A Short Guide” by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. See this document for more detailed information.

When do I need a planning permit and how do I apply for one?

The local planning scheme sets out whether a permit is required. You can find out if a permit is required and what information will need to be lodged with an application from the local council, or you may consider engaging a professional planning consultant to assist you.

An application for a planning permit should be made to the responsible authority for the land.  This is usually the local council. Council will consider planning applications by ensuring all relevant information has been provided by the applicant, requiring any necessary public notices to people who may be affected (eg. neighbours) and sending the application to any referral authorities nominated in the planning scheme (such as the roads authority, EPA, water authorities, etc) for particular application types. This is to ensure all persons that could be affected have an opportunity to make comment on the proposal.

Upon completion of the public notice period, the local council will decide whether to issue a permit, generally with conditions, or refuse to grant a permit. If the planning application is refused the applicant may lodge an application for review to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). In certain circumstances an objector may also lodge an application for review to VCAT if the local Council supports the application.

How long does it take to obtain a planning permit?

The planning approval process is usually determined within three to six months but can extend longer if further information is requested. An applicant should ensure that all supporting documentation is provided with an application to avoid undue delay (the local council usually has a checklist of the information it requires).

Planning scheme amendments

If the zone of a preferred site prohibits a proposed use, the only usual option to continue to pursue the proposal on that site is through a planning scheme amendment process. This is an involved process and requires a planning authority to prepare the amendment. In most cases this will be the local council, however the Minister for Planning can also prepare an amendment for projects of state or regional significance.

What if I need both a planning permit and a planning scheme amendment?

In instances where both a permit and an amendment are required, there is provision in the Planning & Environment Act 1987 for a combined permit and amendment process.

Can I expedite the planning approvals process?

The Development Facilitation Program (DFP) is an accelerated assessment pathway for eligible projects.

All applications lodged to the DFP will be determined by the Minister for Planning or the Department of Transport and Planning under delegation.

To qualify for an accelerated assessment and determination, the project needs to either meet pre-determined criteria or be declared by the Minister for Planning as a priority project.

Eligibility is based on:

  • meeting the DFP sectors and financial thresholds
  • demonstrating investment certainty
  • including a development component that can commence within 12 months.

We can provide early advice on this process and arrange early discussions with the relevant staff within the Department of Transport & Planning  if you think your project may be eligible.

Source: Department of Transport & Planning (DTP)