Get involved in a VCAT case – Planning disputes

If you want to object to a planning permit, find out what your options are and what you need to do.

Join a VCAT case

If you objected to a planning permit application through a council, the permit applicant (for example, a developer) may ask VCAT to review the council’s decision. If this happens, you may be able to get involved in the case when it comes to VCAT.

You may also get involved in a dispute about a planning permit application if the permit might affect you or your land. If you did not object to the permit application through council, you will need to seek leave (permission) from the VCAT member to be joined as a party to the case. Contact us to find out how to do this.

The permit applicant or the council sends you a notice (also called an initiating order) to let you know the case has come to VCAT, and what to do next. You can then get involved in the case as an objector.

Ways to get involved as an objector

There are two ways you can object to a planning permit at VCAT:

  1. You can come to the hearing and present your case or
  2. You can choose to only make a written submission and not have any further involvement.

Make a submission

Your written submission (called a statement of grounds) will be considered by VCAT. This means:

  • You cannot come to the hearing or present your case
  • Your involvement ends after you make the submission
  • You do not need to pay a fee
  • You won't receive communication about the case.

Come to a hearing

You will be 'joined as party' to the case. This means:

  • You present your case at hearings
  • Make a written submission called a statement of grounds
  • There will be things you need to do as part of the legal process
  • You need to pay a fee.

Fees

  • Get involved in a planning case as an objector Standard fee
    Submit a statement of grounds and participate at the hearing $20.70
    Submit a statement of grounds, but not participate at the hearing No fee
  • Get involved in a planning case as an objector Corporate fee
    Submit a statement of grounds and participate at the hearing $29.60
    Submit a statement of grounds, but not participate at the hearing No fee
  • Get involved in a planning case as an objector Concession fee
    Submit a statement of grounds and participate at the hearing $10.40
    Submit a statement of grounds, but not participate at the hearing No fee


If you're experiencing financial hardship you may be eligible for fee relief.

Daily hearing fees do not apply to you, but there may also be other costs you need to pay as part of your case. For example, if you:

  • decide to use a lawyer
  • have expert witnesses prepare evidence for you.

What happens next

  • If you want to attend the hearing of a planning dispute at VCAT you must join the case as an objector and as a party. You need to send us your statement of grounds, and also pay a fee.

    We will continue to contact you about the case, and you can present your argument at the hearing.

    1 Send your statement of grounds

    You must submit a statement of grounds by the date on the notice sent to you, or on the permit application sign at the site.

    Complete a statement of grounds form to briefly explain why you object to a decision about a planning permit.

    Provide copies of your statement of grounds to VCAT, the permit applicant and the responsible authority (for example, the council).

    Submit Statement of Grounds online

    Download PDF form

    Help completing your statement of grounds

    Make sure that the reasons in your statement of grounds relate to the planning laws being considered in the case. You can check the legislation or the application to understand more about the planning laws that the member will decide on. To help you it’s a good idea to find out how we make decisions.

    You can give more information about these reasons at the hearing. You can also attach the original objection you submitted to council to show your reasons.

    We will not accept your statement of grounds if you do not complete the correct online form or PDF form.

    2 If more than one person is applying

    If two or more people are applying to get involved in a case as objectors, they can make a joint application. Do this using the same statement of grounds form.

    You must all agree with the issues raised, and should all want the same outcome.

    You are all treated as one party during the case. This means:

    • you only pay one statement of grounds fee
    • you choose one person to get all communication from VCAT on behalf of all joint applicants. They must keep the other joint applicants informed
    • only one submission may be presented by the joint applicants.

    If you submit a joint application, you must include a list of the names and addresses of all of the applicants and their signatures on your statement of grounds form.

    If you are applying for fee relief, all joint applicants must be eligible.

    3 Pay your statement of grounds fee

    You must pay your statement of grounds fee by the date we tell you in the initiating order. If you don't you will need to ask us (seek leave) to get involved in the case.

    How to pay fees

    4 Prepare your case

    You need to be ready to present facts and answer questions about the case. There are documents to organise and decisions to make.

    If you’re attending VCAT by phone or videoconference make sure you’ve sent any documents you want the member to see to VCAT and to the other parties by email.

    The order you receive from us tells you how we will handle your case. Find out how to prepare for a practice day hearing, preliminary hearing, compulsory conference or final hearing.

    We will also tell you in the initiating order if you should prepare your case as a major case, a short case or a case that will be determined ‘on the papers’.

    5 On the day

    You may attend a compulsory conference or hearing. At a final hearing, all parties can present their case, ask questions and give evidence in front of a VCAT member.

    If you are attending by phone or videoconference

    If you are attending by phone or videoconference make sure you’re ready at the time we give you. (It’s too late to ask to attend by phone on the day of the hearing.)

    We send you information on how to join the call or videoconference before your hearing.

    If you are coming to VCAT in person

    On the day you need to:

    • arrive at least 30 minutes early to find your room. You may need to go through security checks. The hearing may start late or take longer, so allow extra time.
    • bring any documents or evidence you plan to use to support your claim and any witnesses.

    If you’ve been in touch with us about support before you come to VCAT, see our customer service staff at the counter or meet the support person at the location you’ve agreed on before the hearing.

    6 Get an outcome

    You may reach an agreement (settle) before the hearing. This agreement is put in writing and signed by all parties. VCAT makes a consent order.

    If you come to a hearing, the VCAT member makes a decision and gives an order. An order tells parties how the case has been decided. All parties must follow VCAT's orders.

    We send the order to you after the hearing. This takes approximately 6 weeks. We will always give you reasons for the order we make.

  • If you want to get involved in the case as an objector, you can make a submission by completing a statement of grounds form. You don’t have to pay a fee.

    VCAT will consider the information you send us when we make a decision about the case.

    You won’t become a party in the case, and we won’t contact you anymore about the case or the decision that VCAT makes.

    1 Send your statement of grounds

    You must submit a statement of grounds by the date on the notice sent to you, or on the permit application sign at the site.

    Complete a statement of grounds form to briefly explain why you object to a decision about a planning permit.

    Provide copies of your statement of grounds to VCAT, the permit applicant and the responsible authority (for example, the council). You can also attach the original objection you submitted to council to show your reasons.

    Submit Statement of Grounds online

    Download PDF form

    Help completing your statement of grounds

    Make sure that the reasons in your statement of grounds relate to the planning laws being considered in the case. You can check the legislation or the application to understand more about the planning laws that the member will decide on. To help you it’s a good idea to find out how we make decisions.

    You can give more information about these reasons at the hearing. You can also attach the original objection you submitted to council to show your reasons.

    We will not accept your statement of grounds if you do not complete the correct online form or PDF form.

    2 VCAT makes a decision

    We will review your statement of grounds. We will also review all other sides of the case, and will then make a decision based on the law.

    We will not contact you about the hearing or about the decision, but you can find out about decisions VCAT has made on the Austlii website

Downloads

Help and support

  • If you can’t come to VCAT in person or on the scheduled date for a serious reason (for example, you have a disability, are away or unwell) you have a few options. You can: 

    Template of written authority for someone to represent you

    Use this template to give someone authority to represent you. We call this person an ‘agent’.

    I, <NAME> (or Your Company Pty Ltd, if a company),, a party in the VCAT case reference number xxxxx/20xx wish to be represented at VCAT.

    I give permission for <representative's name and occupation> (add 'employed by the company' if you're a company) to represent me.
    The agent has sufficient knowledge of the issues in dispute and has my permission to bind me to any settlement.

    Date xx/xx/xx

    Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________

  • If you want someone else to represent you, for example, a family member or friend, you must put this in writing and give it to them. They must bring this document to the hearing. 

    You must make sure the person who represents you: 

    • has first-hand knowledge of the dispute so they can present your case
    • has your permission to agree on a settlement 
    • can make promises to VCAT relating to a decision.

    The VCAT member decides if they can represent you.

    In most cases you need to ask our permission for a lawyer or other professional to represent you.

    Find out how to ask for permission

    If you’re a company, you must nominate someone to represent the company. Put this in writing and have the director of the company sign it. They must bring this document to the hearing.

    Template of written authority for someone to represent you

    Use this template to ask to give someone authority to represent you. We call this person an ‘agent’.

    I, <NAME> (or Your Company Pty Ltd, if a company),, a party in the VCAT case reference number xxxxx/20xx wish to be represented at VCAT.

    I give permission for <representative's name and occupation> (add 'employed by the company' if you're a company) to represent me.

    The agent has sufficient knowledge of the issues in dispute and has my permission to bind me to any settlement.

    Date xx/xx/xx

    Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________

    See also: Who can represent the owners corporation at VCAT?

  • You can use your own electronic device at a hearing, for example a laptop, tablet, smartphone or USB. 
     
    There is no Wi-Fi at many VCAT venues, so if you need an internet connection you need to have your own. 

    1. Bring your device to the hearing 
      Bring your own device to the hearing, including a charger or power cord, and access to Wi-Fi. 
      If you want to use a USB, you need to bring your own laptop or tablet as private USB devices can’t be connected to VCAT equipment. 
       
    2. Bring an adaptor
      If your device is an Apple product, for example, an iPhone, iPad or MacBook, you need to bring a HDMI or VGA adaptor if you need to connect to VCAT’s equipment (such as a screen).
       
    3. Test your device
      If you want to connect to VCAT equipment in the room, test your device before the hearing to make sure it works.

    VCAT also has projectors, DVD players, LCD screens and other equipment you can book to use at the hearing.

    Contact us to book these facilities

  • When you come to a VCAT hearing and  give evidence at VCAT you need to support what you say with originals of documents.

    You must bring these documents with you on the day - you can’t give us new evidence after we make a decision.

    Bring copies of your documents for the member (the person who hears and decides cases) and the other people at the hearing. Both sides have a right to a fair hearing so you must show all your evidence to the other people involved in the case. Depending on the type of case, the documents you need could be:

    • affidavits, statutory declarations and witness statements 
    • condition reports, contracts, leases, bond receipts and rental records 
    • quotes, invoices and receipts 
    • expert reports
    • business diaries and financial records 
    • letters and notes of conversations or meetings 
    • photographs and videos 
    • plans and drawings 
    • timesheets and job records 
    • reports from doctors 
    • reports from social workers and case managers. 

    If the dispute is about a product, bring it if it’s a manageable size. You can’t print documents at VCAT but you can make photocopies for a small fee. 

    Find out more about preparing for your hearing

    See also: Can I bring my own technology to the hearing?

  • If you are applying to VCAT, you must share a copy of your application and all other supporting documents that are part of your case (like evidence or correspondence with us) with the person or business you are making your claim against (the ‘respondent’ or ‘respondents’).

    We’ll tell you when to do this. If you disadvantage someone by not giving them a copy of the documents you plan to use in the case, VCAT may make an order or award costs against you.

    Whether you made the application or are defending a claim, if you’re writing to VCAT about your case, you must always send a copy to the other person or business (‘party’).

    You can send copies of your application and other correspondence to parties by:

    • email – if you’ve emailed them before applying to VCAT, or if they’ve given us their email address
    • by post
    • in person

    Make sure you include your VCAT reference number with the documents.

    Read more about how to send documents

    Proof you sent documents

    We need to see proof that you’ve shared your documents for some types of cases:

    Goods and services cases

    For goods and services cases, fill in the Declaration of Service form

    Make sure you:

    • complete all parts of the form
    • sign it before an authorised witness
    • bring it with you to your hearing and give it to the member.

    Planning cases

    For planning and environment cases, fill in the Statement of Service form attached to your order. You need to send this to us by the date we give you in the order we sent you.

    If we don’t receive the form by the date we give you, your application can’t progress and may be ‘struck out’ or cancelled. If it’s struck out, you can apply for it to be reinstated. 

    See also: What’s my VCAT reference number?

  • If you apply with other people (as a group application), only one application fee is payable.

    The person, business or organisation who falls under the highest fee category is the one who must pay the fee. That fee covers everyone in the group.

    For example, if the group includes a business who falls under the ‘corporate’ fee category and a person who falls under the ‘concession’ category, the higher fee applies.

    Find out what the application fee is for your case type