Prepare your submission for the hearing – Planning disputes
Before your planning dispute is heard at VCAT, you’ll need to prepare a submission.
What’s a submission?
Your submission tells the VCAT member the reasons for your position on the planning dispute.
If you have provided a statement of grounds to VCAT, your submission can tell us more about the information you have already provided.
Why make a submission?
Preparing a submission helps you organise the case you want to present to VCAT. Submissions also help the member understand your case.
When you make a submission, you won’t be cross examined by other parties, although the member may ask you questions.
If you ask an expert to give evidence at the hearing, they can be cross examined by other parties and the member.
When you can make a submission
During the hearing you only have one chance to make a submission. The member will let you know when it’s your turn.
If your dispute is about a planning permit or is about conditions on a permit, submissions are usually made in this order:
- the responsible authority (usually a council)
- referral authorities (if any)
- the permit applicant
Joint applicants should make a single submission. Different objectors can present different parts of the single submission at the hearing.
The joint applicants will only have one opportunity to cross examine any witnesses. Different objectors can undertake different parts of cross examination.
What’s a statement of grounds?
A statement that explains your position in the case, and whether you agree or disagree with the issues raised in the application.
For an objector in a planning dispute, the statement should briefly explain why you object to a decision about a planning permit. You can also attach the original objection you submitted to the council to show your reasons.
What’s a responsible authority?
The organisation that manages and enforces the planning laws for an area – usually the local council. It also decides whether a planning permit application is approved or refused.
What’s a referral authority?
An organisation that a planning permit application is referred to for specialist advice – usually a government body or service provider. Common examples are Melbourne Water, VicRoads and the CFA.
If you’re attending by phone or videoconference
Make sure you send all parties and VCAT the supporting documents you plan to use at VCAT. You must send these by email. The deadline to send documents is in your notice or order.
How to prepare and present your submission
Submissions range from brief verbal statements to detailed written submissions. Longer submissions may be supported by evidence reports prepared by experts.
The form and length of your submission will vary depending on:
- who you are
- the type of planning dispute and
- the type of hearing.
Each person who comes to VCAT for a planning case must make their own decision about how to present their submission.
Sometimes VCAT will ask for part or all your submission before the hearing. We will tell you this in an order we send to you. Otherwise your submission is made on the day of your hearing.
Bring enough copies of your submission and any attachments for each of the members and all of the other parties at the hearing. It is helpful to check the number of parties involved before you come to VCAT by contacting us to ask for a party list.
What format should my submission take?
You don’t have to make a written submission to VCAT unless required by order, but they are the most common way of presenting your case in planning cases.
Your submission can include photographs, maps, plans, diagrams, previous VCAT decisions or other supporting material.
What to include in a submission
If your dispute is about a planning permit, the responsible authority will send us any background information.
Your submission may be very short (a typed page) but should include basic information about your position or concerns.
If your submission is long, number the pages and paragraphs for easy reference during the hearing.
Here’s a sample format.
|Section||What to include|
This section describes:
The most important section of the submission
Describes the issues important to you and your case.These may be the same as in your statement of grounds.
Briefly state what action you want VCAT to take, for example:
Responses to submissions
At the end of a hearing, each party (as directed by the member) can make a short response to submissions. This is called a ‘right of reply’ and gives you the chance to respond to the case made by the other parties.
A right of reply shouldn’t be used as an opportunity to simply repeat a submission that you or another party has already made. It should be limited to things that have come up in a submission that you have not yet had an opportunity to address.
Submissions on draft permit conditions
The responsible authority will provide draft permit conditions to all parties before the hearing.
These are to help everyone involved in the case to understand what conditions may apply to the permit if it is granted.
Be prepared to discuss these conditions at the end of hearing. You should be ready to suggest additions or amendments in response to issues that are raised during the hearing.
It’s important to be well-informed when you prepare your submission. You should also understand how VCAT makes decisions in planning disputes.
Here are some basic sources of information you can use.
|Information source||Where to find it|
|Planning scheme and related documents||You can view the planning scheme at the council office, the council website or online at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website|
|Council||Your council’s planning department may be able to help.|
|The permit application and objections||
You can go to the council’s website, or to their office during business hours and look at the file for:
|The officer’s report||
Your council’s planning officer usually prepares a report on the planning application for council or its committee. It is sometimes called the Council delegate report.
You can see this report:
|The VCAT file||
You can view the VCAT file with:
|Victoria’s Planning System and Planning Practice Notes||
Guidelines from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on their website
You can also read about how to use Victoria’s Planning System
|Past VCAT cases||
VCAT’s decisions for some cases are published on the AustLII website.
Make sure you include the citation or reference for any decision you quote.
Communicate with VCAT and other parties
Understand when and how to communicate with VCAT and any other parties involved in your case.
An expert report is a written report from an expert that may be used as evidence in a VCAT case.
How VCAT makes decisions in Planning cases
Understand how we come to a decision when we hear a planning case at VCAT.