The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is an independent tribunal that hears and determines a range of disputes. If you are dissatisfied with a Planning Permit decision made by Council, you can apply to have the decision reviewed by VCAT.

VCAT operates under the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 and is overseen by the Victorian Attorney-General. For planning-related disputes, VCAT members are made up of town planners, lawyers, engineers and architects. VCAT allocates a particular member to a case based on the nature of the planning application.

The VCAT website has important resources for people considering appealing a Council decision. Contact VCAT if you need information or clarification about their processes. Council’s Planning and Placemaking staff can also answer general inquiries.

Council's decision and types of VCAT appeals

When Council assesses a Planning Permit application, we will issue either:

  • a Planning Permit (if there are no objections and the application is supported by Council)
  • a Notice of Decision (NOD) to grant the permit (if there are objections, but the application is supported by Council)
  • a Refusal to Grant the permit (if the application is not supported by Council).

After Council has made a decision, common appeals to VCAT are:

  • The permit applicant appeals against Council’s refusal to grant the permit.
  • The permit applicant appeals against conditions Council has imposed on the Planning Permit.
  • The permit applicant appeals against Council’s failure to make a decision on their application within 60 statutory days (a failure appeal).
  • An objector appeals against Council’s decision to issue a NOD.

Timeframe for lodging an appeal

Permit applicants have 60 days from the date of the decision to lodge an appeal.

Objectors have 28 days from the date of the decision to lodge an appeal.

A permit applicant can lodge a failure appeal if Council has not made a decision within 60 statutory days.

Certain events reset the counting of the 60 days, such as when an applicant responds to a request for further information, or if a formal amendment is made to the application.

Lodge the appeal

To lodge an appeal complete the VCAT application form on the VCAT website and pay the relevant fee.

For questions about the appeal process or the information required with your appeal, contact the VCAT registry staff.

After you lodge your appeal, VCAT sends you an Initiating Order, usually by email.

The Initiating Order tells you the:

  • hearing date
  • details of any compulsory conferences or practice day hearings
  • timeframes for the appeals process
  • responsibilities of all parties.

You can talk to the VCAT registry staff about the Initiating Order. Our Planning and Placemaking Department can also offer general advice.

VCAT and our Planning and Placemaking Department cannot advise you whether to lodge an appeal or not. You can seek your own professional town planning or legal advice before lodging an appeal.

Compulsory conferences and practice day hearings

A compulsory conference brings together the parties and Council to informally discuss their issues and potentially reach an agreement without a hearing.

When the Initiating Order lists a compulsory conference, you must attend the conference or VCAT can remove your right to remain involved in the appeal.

A practice day hearing aims to resolve procedural issues before a compulsory conference or a merits hearing. The procedural issues are usually about how the appeal will run such as the how long the hearing will take and how long the parties will take to present their case.

The Initiating Order or VCAT will advise you if a practice day hearing has been listed.

Notify objectors to the Planning Permit application

If anyone objected to your Planning Permit application, you (or your representative) must tell them by mail that an appeal has been lodged. You need to:

  • provide the objector with sufficient information to understand the nature of the appeal
  • include a Statement of Grounds form for the objector to complete if they wish to participate in the appeal.

Learn more about Objector participation in VCAT appeals.

The hearing

You have the option to represent yourself at the hearing or engage a professional. We cannot advise you about how to represent yourself.

At the beginning of the hearing, preliminary matters are discussed. This can include how long the hearing is likely to take or what to do if a party has not complied with their obligations as set out by VCAT.

The preliminary discussion is also your opportunity to:

  • ask VCAT questions about the hearing or the process
  • raise any concerns about the process or the conduct of other parties.

At the hearing, parties speak in the following order:

  1. Council
  2. objectors and other third parties
  3. permit applicant.

Each party only has one opportunity to make their submission, so it's important that your submission includes all the points you wish to make.

After all the parties have made their submissions, Council and objectors have a Right of Reply. This is where Council and objectors respond to anything new that may have arisen in your submission.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Council and all parties have the opportunity to discuss what conditions VCAT should place on the Planning Permit, in the event VCAT decides to approve the planning application. This discussion is without prejudice, and does not affect what you have said in your submission.

Preparing your submission

What you say and the material supplied at the hearing is called your submission. Go to VCAT for information about making and writing your submission, as well as suggested templates. We recommend that you use VCAT's submission templates.

Your submission contains information to support your case. Points to support your case should come from your Statement of Grounds, and refer back to the relevant planning scheme controls and policies that Council considered when determining the planning application.

Our Planning and Placemaking Department can advise you of the relevant planning scheme controls and policies.

Our role at the hearing

Council has two roles at the hearing.

Our first role is to give information about:

  • the history and background of the planning application (and any other relevant matters)
  • the details of the property and the surrounding areas
  • the relevant policies, controls and guidelines that apply.

Our second role is to make a submission in support of our position.

We will usually be represented by a qualified town planner from the Planning and Placemaking Department. In some cases, we can be represented by a consultant or its lawyers. This depends on the complexity of the planning application, whether legal issues have been raised, and Council staff availability.

VCAT's decision

VCAT can either make a decision at the very end of the hearing or reserve their decision.

If VCAT reserves their decision, they generally give a written decision by email after 4 to 6 weeks.

Contact Council’s Planning and Placemaking Department if you are unsure about the decision.

VCAT’s decision is final and binding to all parties and no further right of appeal exists. However, if VCAT has made a legal mistake, then a right of appeal to the Supreme Court of Victoria exists.

More information

For more information, contact:

Note that this information does not replace professional town planning or legal advice.

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