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

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 VicRoads, 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.  It should be noted that;

  • An application lapses if the further information requested by the local Council is not provided by the date that it specifies.
  • A minimum of 14 days is required for a public notice if Council determines that notice is required.
  • Referral authorities have 28 days to respond and may request further information if necessary (if a referral authority directs that the planning application be refused or particular conditions be included on a permit, the local Council must comply).

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). 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 where a planning permit is required. 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 zoning 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.

A local Council must be convinced of the strategic basis for preparing the Amendment (usually involving background strategic investigation) and must obtain the Minister’s written authorisation to prepare an amendment. Once authorisation is granted, the local Council may then proceed, as planning authority to prepare the Amendment, subject to any requirements imposed by the Minister, and place it on public exhibition for at least one month.

Council will then consider submissions in assessing the amendment. This is usually followed by referral to an independent Panel for its consideration before Council adopts its final version of the amendment, and approves the amendment or seeks approval from the Minister for Planning (depending on the level of authorisation).

Generally, an amendment to the planning scheme is completed within twelve months depending on the complexity or controversial nature of the proposal and whether it is of State 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?

There are no real “short-cuts” in the planning approvals process. However, there is no substitution for applicants having early discussion with the local Council and referral authorities.  Such discussions often produce significant improvements to the application before it is officially presented.  We can arrange these early discussions to ensure a high level of coordination between regulatory agencies.

Source: Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP)