Preliminary hearings

Preliminary hearings are held only for some cases. We hold preliminary hearings to resolve issues that need to be decided on before the final hearing.

The outcome from a preliminary hearing might be that a final order is made and the application does not proceed any further.

The VCAT order we send you tells you the date of the preliminary hearing and also tells you what issue will be considered at the preliminary hearing.

At a preliminary hearing we may consider:

  • whether VCAT has the jurisdiction (official power) to deal with a particular concern. This might include whether planning permission is required
  • whether a person has a legal right to be a party to a case (if third party notice and review rights exist for the planning permit application)
  • how a provision in a planning scheme or legislation should be interpreted, if this needs to be decided before the final hearing occurs
  • whether a cultural heritage management plan is required in relation to a proposed use or development of land
  • whether a planning permit that is proposed to be amended has expired.

It is important to attend a preliminary hearing because the member might make a decision that affects you.

A decision may be made on the day or it might be made after the hearing. The reasons for the decision will be sent to you.

How much do preliminary hearings cost?

You may have to pay a hearing fee when you attend a preliminary hearing at VCAT.

We contact you in writing to tell you if you need to pay a fee. You must pay before the hearing. If you don’t, your hearing will be postponed (adjourned).

How to pay your hearing fee

When are preliminary hearings held?

We may hold a preliminary hearing because the member identifies an issue that needs to be resolved before the final hearing. A preliminary hearing might also be held because a party identifies an issue. 

You can apply for a preliminary hearing using the online form or download and complete the PDF form.

Preliminary hearings are held Monday to Friday. The time they take depends on the issues being considered. The order we send you will tell you the time and date of the preliminary hearing and how long we expect it to take.

You can also check the details of the hearing on the website after 4.30pm the day before. See Upcoming hearings.

How to prepare for a preliminary hearing

The member uses the preliminary hearing to ask questions about any issues that have been identified. It’s important to be prepared for the preliminary hearing as what you say can help clarify the issues being considered.

The member might also look at how the case should be managed.

To get ready for a preliminary hearing:

  • be ready to answer questions about your application or your response to an application if it relates to the issues being considered
  • have your documents and supporting information ready for the purpose of the preliminary hearing
  • write down what you would like to tell the member about the issues being considered
  • think about anything you might want to say about how the case is managed, if this is discussed
  • bring draft terms of settlement if the case is likely to be settled by consent on the day
  • be ready to take notes during the preliminary hearing. If you plan to use a laptop or other electronic device to do this, do not record the hearing unless you have permission.

If you have a legal or professional representative, they can be a lawyer, town planner or someone else with a good understanding of the dispute.

Find out more about how to prepare for a VCAT hearing and how to prepare your submission for your planning case.

What you can't bring

For safety reasons, you cannot bring into our venues:

  • weapons and any other items that could be used as a weapon
  • any sharp items (for example, manicure sets, table knives, forks and scissors)
  • harmful substances and chemicals
  • glass bottles and any other glass objects
  • tools (for example, stanley knives, box cutters).

You will be searched and scanned by security when you enter.

If you're attending by phone or videoconference

Make sure you’re ready for your phone or videoconference hearing at the allocated time or within the allocated timeframe. If you’re not available for the hearing, orders may be made against you.

Phone and videoconference hearings may be less formal, but there are still rules to follow and things to do. Our cases are heard by members. Some cases are heard by judicial members (our president or vice presidents) who are also judges.

Etiquette for phone and videoconference hearings

  • Turn off or eliminate background noise and distractions. Use headphones if possible.
  • It’s an offence to record any part of a VCAT proceeding without permission (Court Security Act 1980). Do not record the hearing
  • All VCAT hearings, including phone and videoconference hearings, are recorded.
  • It’s important you email any documents or evidence you want to rely on in your hearing to VCAT and all other parties well before your hearing.
  • Mute your phone or microphone if not speaking to avoid feedback or noise.
  • To avoid disruption, parties and their legal representatives should not be in the same room if they intend to use separate devices to join their VCAT matter as this can create feedback and/or sound distortion.

If you need support to attend, for example an interpreter or accessibility assistance, contact us.

At the preliminary hearing

Even if you have a legal or professional representative, it’s a good idea to come to a preliminary hearing in person.

In the hearing room

Everyone must be respectful and polite:

  • call the member ‘Member’. They will let you know if you need to use another title, like Deputy President Smith
  • switch your mobile phone off or to silent
  • remove hats and sunglasses
  • water is provided
  • do not record any part of the preliminary hearing without permission, for example, take photos or make audio or video recordings.

Related pages

Prepare your submission for the hearing

Before your planning dispute is heard at VCAT, you’ll need to prepare a submission.

How to communicate with VCAT and other parties

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