Planning disputes and review: Planning and Environment Act

Planning disputes can be referred to the VCAT Planning & Environment List.  There are certain things to note before seeking a review of a planning permit application if you are a property developer or home owner, a builder or an objecting neighbour.

Planning disputes generally arise once a Council makes a Notice of Decision.

Whether you are a developer, builder or objector, planning permit applications that are determined by your relevant Council can be reviewed in the VCAT Planning & Environment List.  Applications for review should be made within the requisite time frame.

The relevant legislation for planning permit applications in Victoria is the Planning and Environment Act 1987 together with relevant planning schemes for your local Municipality.

VCAT review

One of the following grounds will need to occur before an application to the VCAT can be made:

  • If the Council refuses to grant a planning permit by issuing a Notice of Refusal to Grant a Permit
  • If the Council grants a planning permit containing conditions which you find unfavourable
  • If you are a neighbour objecting, once the Council has issue Notice of Decision to Grant a Permit
  • If the Council refuses to extend the time for which a development is to commence or finish under a planning permit
  • If the Council fails to make a decision within time.

Time frames

Applications need to be lodged with the VCAT within prescribed time frames.

  • Within 60 days from date of notice or from date of planning permit application
  • Within 21 days if an objector

When reviewing a decision (or failure to make a decision) or an objection, the VCAT has the authority as any relevant Council to make a decision.  As part of the merits review, the VCAT has authority to amend conditions, cancel or grant a planning permit.

Expert evidence

Choosing your expert town planner expert is critical as your best possible case will ultimately increase the chances of success with your review.  When deciding on an appropriate expert, it is important to perform some due diligence on their background in handling reviews with your Council in question and considering their track-record with regards to VCAT Planning & Environment List outcomes.

It is prudent to retain your possible expert to conduct a preliminary assessment of your application and chances of success.  Once your prospects are considered, the next step is for a report to be prepared by your expert which will detail the proposed or amended plans and correlate this with neighbourhood characteristics, guidelines, legislation and regulations, and the local planning scheme.  Reports are to be issued to the Council or other parties ten days before hearing.

Statement of grounds

This is to be completed as part of the initial application.  The statement of grounds should be general and contrary to the decision made by the Council.  Ultimately, the expert report is key to indicating the specifics that will support your position.


Hearings in the VCAT Planning & Environment List are usually dealt with in one day.  Generally, parties do not partake in mediation or compulsory conference.  The Hearing is convened by a Member or Senior Member of the VCAT who will hear the evidence from your legal representation and expert followed by the respondents like representation.  Determinations are generally handed down within about 8 weeks.

Whether you are a planning permit applicant or and objector, you should seek legal advice from lawyers with experience with the VCAT Planning & Environment List and the Planning and Environment Act 1987.