Consent orders – Planning disputes
Ask for a consent order to confirm a legally-binding agreement between you and other parties in a planning case.
A consent order is a decision or direction by VCAT that gives effect to an agreement reached between the parties.
The agreement might be:
- to settle the dispute without a hearing
- about how the case is managed. For example, when and how the hearing, and preparation for the hearing, will happen.
Even if parties have agreed on a consent order, this doesn’t mean that the order will be made. VCAT will decide whether to make a consent order. If we decide to make one, the order is enforceable by law.
Examples of consent orders in planning disputes
Examples of consent orders that settle a planning dispute are:
- an order to grant a planning permit with conditions. This may happen if the permit application was refused or a decision was not made about the permit application
- an order to grant a planning permit with conditions that are different to the conditions set out by the responsible authority
- an order to make an enforcement order that requires a landowner to do certain things in relation to their land by certain dates
- an order to amend or cancel a planning permit
- in addition to other orders, an order that costs will be paid by one of the parties.
Examples of consent orders that are about how the case is managed are:
- an order to change the final hearing to a later date (adjourn)
- an order to send VCAT and the other parties documents, including expert evidence reports, by certain dates.
How to ask for a consent order
Any party can ask for a consent order before the final hearing. If the dispute is about a planning permit application, it is usually the permit applicant who asks for a consent order.
You must tell us in writing:
- your VCAT reference or file number
- what you and the other parties have agreed
- that each party agrees to the consent order. This is shown by every party signing the consent order.
Make sure you have the consent of all parties
Ask us for a list of all parties to make sure that you have consent from everyone.
Parties in a dispute may change, or you might not know about all of the parties (for example, you might not know about any referral authorities).
Your dispute may involve people who have objected to a permit application but who do not want to take part in the hearing. You do not need to get their consent.
Read more about different parties in a VCAT case.
Use the exact wording
Everyone must agree on the exact wording of the consent orders.
We may change the format or make minor changes to the wording as long as the intent of the consent order stays the same.
If bigger changes need to be made then we will contact the parties to discuss these changes.
We may not grant your consent order request
We will only give you a consent order if the agreement is lawful and acceptable. We decide this based on the materials we have at the time.
We will consider the type of application, the facts of the dispute and what the effect of the consent order will be.
We will tell you if we have concerns about what you have asked for in the consent order. To do this, we may ask you to attend a practice day hearing to explain or discuss the consent order.
We may also refuse your request and ask you to attend your upcoming compulsory conference or hearing.
Until we grant a consent order, you must do anything we have already asked you to do. This includes attending a compulsory conference or hearing. Unless we tell you otherwise, the compulsory conference or hearing will proceed. If you do not attend, we may make decisions that affect you.
Consent orders to settle a planning dispute
You should make a request for a consent order as soon as you can. You must request it no later than two business days before the scheduled compulsory conference or hearing.
This gives us enough time to consider your request before you come to VCAT.
If you have not heard from VCAT about a consent order before your compulsory conference or hearing, then you must still attend.
We may decide to make an order 'on the papers'. This means that you will not need to come to a compulsory conference or hearing.
Information you will need
Provide this information when you ask for a consent order. We use this information to decide if the agreement is acceptable for the type of application you have made.
Tell us in writing:
- your VCAT reference or file number
- the site address, the planning permit application number or the permit number (if relevant)
- the exact wording of the changed permit conditions that have been agreed between the parties, as well as the order that you are asking VCAT to make.
For examples of wording, see our sample consent orders
- if there are different plans that are referred to in the consent order (provide a copy of these)
- any conditions to a planning permit as an appendix (if relevant)
- who will pay costs, including if each of the parties have agreed to pay their own costs
- that each party agrees to the consent order. Each party must sign the consent order to prove this.
Consent orders about costs and fees
When a dispute comes to VCAT, each party will usually pay their own costs.
Costs might include:
- lawyers or other professionals who represent a party
- the preparation of expert evidence reports for a party
- photocopying and printing documents.
Costs might be dealt with in different ways:
- A consent order may state that one or more of the parties pays the costs of the other party. If everyone agrees to this, you must include details about who is paying and what they’re going to pay.
- The parties might also agree that one or more of the parties will reimburse any VCAT fees that the applicant has paid in the case. If everyone agrees to this, you must include details about who is paying and what they’re going to pay.
- The parties may agree to sort out costs and fees between themselves, without getting VCAT involved. If this happens, then you do not need to tell us. The agreement will not be included in VCAT’s orders. You can do this by including the phrase “there is no order as to costs” in your consent order. This also means that if a payment is not made as agreed, the party who is owed the money will not be able to enforce payment as a breach of VCAT’s orders.
Consent orders about amended plans
If your consent order involves changes in a new set of plans then there are additional requirements.
Learn more about what happens when you want to make amendments to plans.
Consent orders about enforcement orders
If everyone agrees that VCAT should make an enforcement order, you must include:
- details of the breach including what has been breached (for example, a clause in the planning scheme)
- the full names of the persons that the enforcement order is made against
- what those persons are required to do and by what date.
Consent orders about how a case is managed
If you want to change (adjourn) the date of a hearing you need all parties to agree. You must provide reasonable grounds to change the date.
We do not encourage applications to change the date of a hearing. Even if all parties agree to change the date of a hearing, we may still refuse the request.
We may refuse to change the hearing date for a number of reasons. This could be because delaying the hearing is not in the public interest or goes against the interests of one or more parties.
If we do not grant your request you must still attend any scheduled compulsory conference or hearings.
You might also need to attend a practice day hearing if all parties do not agree to change the hearing date. We may also ask for a practice day hearing before we make a decision about whether to change the date of the hearing.
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 an enforcement order?
An order by VCAT that requires a person to do specified things to do with the use and development of land so that the use and development complies with the law, the planning scheme, a 173 agreement or a planning permit.
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.
What’s a planning scheme?
A statutory document that sets out the policies, rules and guidelines for the use and development of land. Each council has a separate planning scheme for its area.
How VCAT makes decisions in planning disputes
Understand how we come to a decision when we hear a planning case at VCAT. Read more.
If a permit applicant makes changes to their plans before the hearing, find out what this means. Read more.
Withdraw your application – Planning disputes
Find out what to do if you want to withdraw your VCAT application in a planning dispute. Read more.