Decisions in planning disputes

Understand how we make decisions and what happens after we hear a planning dispute at VCAT.

How we make decisions on a permit application

When we make a decision about a permit application, we take a completely fresh look at the application.

We don’t just look at the decision made by the responsible authority. Our task is to make the right decision about the application, and to decide whether the grant of a permit would be an acceptable planning outcome.

What we will consider

When we make a decisions we consider:

  • the application and all the supporting material, including the plans
  • the planning scheme and other planning laws
  • all of the matters that the responsible authority considered or was required to consider when it made its decision
  • the views of any referral authority
  • all objections to the permit
  • the submissions and evidence provided by the parties at the hearing.

We will often visit the permit site before we make a decision so that we can better understand the issues raised by the parties.

We can also consider how many people have objected to the permit. We only do this if there is evidence of a significant social effect if the permit is granted.

The planning scheme contains policies, rules and guidelines that we must consider or apply when we make a decision about the development or use of land.

What we can't consider

We can’t make a decision just because a lot of people like or don’t like something.

This means that we can only consider issues that are related to the reason for which the planning permit is required.

For example:

  • we can’t consider building height or size if a permit is only required to reduce a car parking requirement
  • we can’t consider whether land should be used for a fast-food restaurant if that use is already authorised and a permit is only required for a sign
  • we can’t consider traffic impacts in a street if a permit is only required to deal with a heritage issue about a building.

We also can’t make decisions outside of the rules and laws already fixed by other government organisations.

For example, we can’t consider concerns by objectors about environmental or health issues raised by emissions from a proposed mobile phone tower if those emissions clearly meet the standard fixed by the Australian government.

We will usually not consider:

  • the personalities of the people involved
  • how the council handled the application
  • moral objections – for instance, to a brothel
  • if the permit might increase competition between businesses
  • if the permit might cause a loss of property value.

Permit conditions

If we decide to grant a permit, the decision may also contain a copy of any conditions that the responsible authority must put on the permit.

These conditions are an important part of the decision because they place restrictions on the way the land may be developed or used.

Conditions are often added to a permit to resolve issues raised by objectors.

How we make decisions on a cancellation or amendment of a permit

The reasons that a person can ask for a permit to be cancelled or amended are limited.

When we make decisions about the cancellation or amendment of a permit we will consider:

  • the specific reason why the permit should be cancelled or amended. For instance, if there was a failure to give notice of the permit application under the planning laws. Other reasons might be if there has been a  mistake in relation to the grant of the permit or a failure to comply with permit conditions
  • the planning scheme and other planning laws
  • how quickly the application was made
  • whether any development authorised by the permit has already been finished
  • the submissions and evidence provided by the parties at the hearing.

Look at other decisions

You can read about decisions made in other planning disputes. Most VCAT decisions are published on the AustLii website

How we tell you about the decision

We tell you our decision after the hearing. We usually do this in writing for:

  • most cases – within six weeks of the hearing
  • straightforward Fast Track cases  – within two weeks of the hearing.

If the case is complex, we may take longer. For a complex Fast Track case, we usually make a decision within about six weeks of the final hearing.

We send a copy of the decision by email to everyone who participated at the hearing. We do not send a copy of the decision to objectors who did not participate in the hearing.

For planning disputes at VCAT, everyone who participates at the hearing is required to provide us with a current email address. Objectors do this when they lodge their statement of grounds.

Please ensure your email address is correct and up to date. We do not usually send a copy of the decision by post.

In short cases, we will sometimes tell you our decision and give you reasons before you leave the hearing. This is called an oral decision. If we do this, a copy of the order will still be sent to the parties after the hearing.

After VCAT has made a decision

If we make a decision to grant a planning permit, then the council (or responsible authority) must issue the planning permit according to our decision.

The permit may be issued with specific conditions that the permit holder must follow. It is the council’s responsibility to make sure that the conditions of the permit are met.

VCAT is generally not involved in making sure that any conditions of a permit are met, unless you apply for an enforcement order.

Apply for an enforcement order

Related pages

High profile decisions

If a decision has been in the media, or we think it is important, we may publish it on our website.

Hearings ‘on the papers’

We may make a decision on your case based on written submissions of the parties, without a face-to-face hearing.

Consent orders – Planning disputes

If you are involved in a planning dispute you can ask for a consent order to confirm an agreement between you and the other parties.