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.

Learn more about reports prepared by experts

When you can make a submission

You can make a submission at the hearing. You may also be ordered to prepare a submission before the hearing and submit it in a tribunal book

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:

Joint applications

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.

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. If you would like these materials to be returned to you after the hearing, you must arrange for them to be collected. Find out more about what happens after the hearing

If you are in the Short Cases List

Learn about how you need to format and prepare your submission.

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:

  • who you are
  • your interest in the application
  • and if the dispute relates to a permit a description of your property and its relationship to the review site.
Photographs are also helpful.
Main submission

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:

  • grant a permit
  • impose conditions on a permit
  • refuse a permit

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.

Information sources

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 application form
  • any plans and submissions
  • objections to the application.
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:

  • in the council’s file
  • In the VCAT case file
  • sometimes on the council’s website.
The VCAT file

You can view the VCAT file with:

  • the application for review
  • the information provided by the responsible authority
  • any other correspondence.
Find out how to view the VCAT case file.
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.

Read VCAT decisions

Related pages

Communicate with VCAT and other parties

Understand when and how to communicate with VCAT and any other parties involved in your case.

Expert reports

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.