When VCAT opens a case

When we receive an application and the correct fee, we first review it to make sure it fits within VCAT's jurisdiction The authority of a court or tribunal to hear matters brought before it. and then open a new case.

Reference number

We assign each case a reference number. Use this reference number whenever you contact us or the other people involved in the case. The reference number appears on anything we send you about your case.

The VCAT reference number is usually different to the number you receive when you apply using one of our online forms. When we talk about the VCAT reference number, we mean the number that we assign to the case and attach to the VCAT file – not the online reference number.

What happens next

Depending on the type of case, we may give instructions about how the case will be managed. We refer many cases directly to mediation Mediations are confidential meetings where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute, with the help of an impartial mediator. , directions hearings or small claims hearings without first making orders. 

Check the correspondence or notices you receive from VCAT carefully and follow the instructions we provide. 

When we open a case we give instructions to the applicant The person or organisation applying to VCAT. about how the case will be managed. These are called directions or orders. In most cases, we also give instructions to the other parties in the case.

Information you provide in relation to a case

If you provide information to us in relation to a case we are hearing The time and place at which VCAT hears the parties argue their case and makes a decision. we are obliged by law to share it with other parties in the case.

Most VCAT files, decisions and hearings are available to the public. If you want to provide information to us in confidence you must first apply for confidentiality

Read more in our practice note on common procedures.

Case types

Some details of the steps to follow during a VCAT case vary for different case types.
Choose a case type to see any case type specific variations.

Planning and Environment

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Initiating order

For Planning and Environment cases, we make an initiating order when we have received a valid application form and the correct fee.

The initiating order gives instructions to the applicant The person or organisation applying to VCAT. , as well as to the responsible authority, objectors and other parties. Instructions in an initiating order relate to:

  • serving the application on the right people
  • giving notice of the application, if required
  • joining of other people as parties, if required
  • filing of a statement of grounds A statement from the respondent setting out reasons about whether they agree or disagree with the applicant and about what they say in their application. Also called a defence or 'points of defence'. by respondents
  • information to be provided by the responsible authority or other decision maker A person who makes or has made a decision under legislation that gives them this authority. . Read more in Practice Note PNPE2: Information from decision makers.

The initiating order also tells you about:

  • statements of grounds
  • withdrawals
  • adjournments
  • how and when to communicate with VCAT and other parties
  • how to inspect the VCAT file
  • compulsory conferences
  • the Short Cases List A List is an area in VCAT that deals with cases of a similar nature. For example, the Residential Tenancies List decides cases between tenants and landlords, and the Civil Claims List handles disputes about buying or selling goods and services. including how cases are presented and how to remove a proceeding from the Short Cases List.

Initiating order for VicSmart applications

We make an initiating order within five days of receiving a valid VicSmart review application and the appropriate fee. The order includes:

  • directions to the applicant and the other parties
  • the date and the duration of any compulsory conference Compulsory conferences are confidential meetings where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of a VCAT member. and the final hearing The time and place at which VCAT hears the parties argue their case and makes a decision. .

The initiating order will tell you to serve the responsible authority and any relevant referral authority with:

  • the application
  • all attachments
  • other material filed with VCAT
  • the order.

These documents must be attached to a covering letter that explains:

  • you have lodged an application to review
  • VCAT has directed you to serve the documents, and include the date and time for the hearing of the application.

VicSmart exemptions for decision makers

The initiating order for a VCAT review of a VicSmart decision exempts the responsible authority from providing the information that we normally require from decision makers, detailed in Practice Note PNPE2: Information from decision makers.

Notice of application

If you are a permit applicant and a responsible authority has refused to grant a permit without having given notice of your permit application to neighbours and others who might be affected, then we will require you to give notice of application in the initiating order. The initiating order will direct you to give notice of the application by one or more of:

  • serving a copy of the application, a copy of the initiating order and any additional material set out in the initiating order, on specified persons
  • publishing a notice of the application by erecting a sign on the land
  • publishing a notice of the application in a specified newspaper.

All of the notices served or published must specify the:

  • closing date for the serving of a statement of grounds
  • date, time and duration of the proposed hearing.

These dates are set out in the initiating order.

The initiating order directs the responsible authority to give you, by a specified date, the names and addresses of people to whom you should give notice of the application.

Having received these names and addresses, you must give notice of the application as directed by the initiating order.

If you dispute the extent of the notice required by the order, request an urgent practice day hearing to resolve the issue.

You must provide a statement of notice to VCAT:

  • using forms attached to the initiating order
  • by the date set out in the initiating order.

Failing to file the statement of notice may result in the application being struck out.

Statement of grounds

If you wish to contest the a Planning and Environment case, you must lodge a copy of your statement of grounds with VCAT and give copies to the applicant and responsible authority (usually a council).

Your statement of grounds should:

  • be a short and precise list of issues you wish to raise with VCAT
  • state the remedy or orders you want
  • make sure that your grounds are relevant to the matters that VCAT
    can consider
  • form the basis for your submission A document that sets out your side of a case or dispute. It should be sent to all parties. Depending on the type of case it will be your responsibility or ours to send the submission to all parties. at the hearing.

To send your statement of grounds to other parties, and lodge it with VCAT:

  1. Use the statement of grounds form.
  2. Lodge your statement of grounds by the date prescribed in the initiating order.
  3. Pay fees for lodging your statement of grounds.

If you want to become a party A person or organisation directly involved in a VCAT case, including a person or organisation that has brought the case before VCAT or who is defending claims made against them. to the case, you must pay a lodgement fee when you give VCAT your statement of grounds, unless you are a permit applicant or holder, a determining or recommending referral authority, a person responding to an enforcement order application, or an applicant for a works authority or licence.

If you choose not to become a party to the case, you do not pay a lodgement fee but you cannot participate at the hearing or compulsory conference. Your statement of grounds will still be considered if we receive it by the due date.

When the tasks in the initiating order are complete

When all the parties have completed the tasks required in the initiating order, VCAT reviews the file. The review may result in an order to confirm or change the program for the proceeding, including changes to key dates or the duration of hearings.

Costs

At VCAT, parties are expected to bear their own costs, unless we order otherwise.

We rarely make orders for costs in ordinary applications for review of council decisions, such as to grant or refuse an application for a permit.

We may award costs in applications for enforcement orders or applications by a third party to cancel or amend a permit. Examples of cases where we may make an order for costs include:

  • where the proceedings have been brought vexatiously or frivolously, or
  • where the case for the applicant is misconceived, weak on the relative merits or not tenable in fact or law.

Other resources

Short cases list

The Short Cases List is a sub-list of the Planning and Environment List.

The Short Cases List handles short and less complex planning and environmental disputes. If your case can be heard in the Short Cases List, it can generally be heard and determined in one to two hours.

We encourage members hearing cases in the Short Cases List to provide oral decisions at the conclusion of the hearing. We would not normally undertake a site visit for a matter being heard under the Short Cases List.

You can apply to have your application included in the Short Cases List.

The documents listed below provide more information about the procedure for the inclusion of applications in the Short Cases List and the conduct of the hearing.

Documents you may need in relation to the Short Cases List

Major cases list

The Major Cases List is a sub-list of the Planning and Environment List that has been established to expedite the resolution of applications. Fees in the Major Cases List are higher. The Major Cases List operates on a user-pays fee basis so that its operation does not materially disadvantage the finalisation of other applications in the Planning and Environment List.

An application to VCAT is eligible for inclusion in the Major Cases List if the proceeding is in respect of a use or development of any kind irrespective of the cost of development.

Application types

Applications that can be heard in the Major Cases List are:

  • review by a permit applicant under sections 77 or 79 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 seeking to review the refusal or failure of a responsible authority to grant a planning permit
  • review by a permit applicant or permit holder under section 80 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 seeking to review conditions on a planning permit
  • reviews by an objector under sections 82 or 82B of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 seeking to review the notice of a decision of a responsible authority to grant a planning permit
  • seeking to amend a planning permit. The application would be made by a permit holder, owner or occupier of the subject land under section 87A of the Planning and Environment Act 1987
  • application for review under sections 33, 33A or 33B of the Environment Protection Act 1970.

Inclusion in the Major Cases List

Participation in the Major Cases List is at the option of the permit applicant or permit holder, with a one-off opportunity to elect to commence sections 77, 79, 80 or 87A of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and sections 33 and 33A of the Environment Protection Act 1970 applications in the Major Cases List.

The permit applicant or permit holder can also transfer sections 82 or 82B of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and sections 33B of Environment Protection Act 1970 applications into the List.

How to include your application in the Major Cases List

To have your application included in the Major Cases List, complete the appropriate form:

VCAT reviews of VicSmart decisions

VicSmart is a streamlined assessment process for straightforward planning permit applications. The permit applicant is eligible to apply to VCAT for the review of a decision of the responsible authority in the same way as any other planning permit application is eligible for review. VicSmart applications are exempt from notice and review, so an objector or other third party cannot seek review of the decision.

Complete the Vicsmart Application for Review by Permit Applicant or Permit Holder form. The form tells you about all the documents did you must include with the application. Lodge the application form with the attached documents and the required fee with VCAT.

Within five days of receiving a valid VicSmart review application and the appropriate fee, VCAT will make an initiating order.

We aim to schedule hearings for VicSmart review applications within six weeks of receiving your application form and fee.