Clearly describe what you want a permit for. Make sure you describe all the things that need a planning permit so you don’t need to apply for another one. Check this with the council planner when lodging your application.
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The planning permit process
A planning permit is a legal document that allows a certain use and/or development on land. It normally contains a written document with conditions that must be met and a set of plans.
Most applications for a planning permit are made to the local council and some are made to the Minister for Planning.
A planning permit is not a building permit. You may need to obtain both a building permit and a planning permit.
Find out about building permits.
VicSmart is a streamlined assessment process for straightforward planning permit applications.
Learn about the VicSmart process and eligibility criteria.
Before you apply
Understand the process
The Planning and Environment Act 1987 establishes the planning permit application process.
Planning schemes regulate the use and development of land. Each council has its own planning scheme. Requirements for permits vary for each council – even minor changes may need a planning permit. It's up to you to find out whether a permit is required before you develop or change the use of your land.
Find out how planning schemes work.
Learn more about planning permits and the application process.
Talk to your council planner
Before you start, discuss your proposal with your local council’s planning department.
They can help with:
- whether your proposal needs a permit
- if your proposal is prohibited
- what additional information you need to supply with your application
- how your application will be processed.
In some cases the Minister for Planning is responsible for issuing planning permits. The schedule to Clause 72.01 of your local planning scheme identifies the responsible authority.
Find out more about applying to the Minister for Planning.
Talk to your neighbours
Talk to your neighbours so you know if they have questions or concerns about your proposal.
Taking the time to talk to them at this early stage may save time later if changes can be made to the plans that address their concerns. Most people appreciate the opportunity to discuss plans before the formal notice process commences, although it will not always be possible to make changes that satisfy everybody.
Get professional advice
Consider getting professional advice. Planning assessment and decision making are often complicated processes and might include rules about:
- respecting neighbourhood character
- achieving good urban design outcomes
- protecting reasonable amenity
- enhancing heritage significance.
Council and the community are looking for proposals that will meet their expectations. Getting the professional advice at the beginning will help develop your ideas so you meet both council's expectations and your requirements.
Prepare your application
Once you’ve determined that a planning permit is required there are a number of steps to follow to prepare your permit application.
Find out what information is required
Ask your council's planning department what information needs to be provided with the application, and what policies and provisions council will use to assess it.
Councils often have specific requirements and checklists, so it’s important to check with the right council and confirm requirements before you start an application.
You’ll need to provide different information for different types of permit applications, that could include:
- site plans
- elevation drawings
- a written report.
The requirements will also depend on the type of proposal, for example:
- a VicSmart or VicSmart Plus application
- residential development
- a subdivision
- if it involves native vegetation.
Some councils offer pre-application meetings where they discuss the details of the application and information to be submitted. This can help to make sure your application is complete and reduce delays from requests for further information.
Fill out the application form
Each council has their own application for planning permits. The council's planning department can help you to find it on their website or from their office, and to complete it.
Provide an accurate estimate of the cost of the development. This is used to determine the planning application fee.
If you’re the permit applicant but not the owner of the land, you must provide the owner's details on the form. You must tell the owner that the application has been made.
Attach any other information the council needs. This usually includes a set of plans, including floor plans and elevations, and anything else your council has asked for.
If you don’t provide everything the council has asked for your application won't be processed. They need all the information before they can assess the application.
Lodge an application
Most applications for a planning permit are made to the local council and some are made to the Minister for Planning.
Check you’ve collected and completed all the information that needs to be submitted with your application.
Lodge your completed application, all required information and the fee with the council. Make sure you include your current mailing address and telephone number.
After you lodge the application, the planning officer will check it and advise you in writing if further information is required. If they do, you should provide the information promptly so the application can be processed.
Notice of a planning application (advertising) occurs unless the council is satisfied that granting a permit won’t cause material detriment to any person, or the planning scheme states that notice isn’t required.
Notice of an application might be given via:
- letters mailed to owners and occupiers of nearby properties – some councils require letters to be sent by registered post, others provide a mail out service for permit applicants
- signs erected on the land subject to the application
- notices in local newspapers
- notice to adjoining municipalities, government authorities, organisations or utilities.
Council will let you know which notice method is required, and explain what you need to do.
The notice will include:
- the address of the land subject to the application
- the permit applicant's name
- council's reference number for the application
- what the application is for
- where the application and plans can be inspected
- the address for lodging submissions
- the closing date to lodge a submission – at least 14 days after the date the last notice was given.
The council can’t make a decision on an application until at least 14 days after the giving of the last notice.
After a planning application has been lodged anyone can inspect it at the offices of the council or responsible authority, and request copies of plans from the council.
If someone believes they’re affected by the proposal they can make a written submission to the council. Submissions, or objections, to a planning application can be inspected by anyone.
After the submission period has closed, find out what the council planner’s recommendation is if possible, and how the decision will be made. Make sure you know what's going on at this final stage of the application process.
Some planning permit applications need to be referred to other authorities or organisations for advice and comment. For example, if you’re proposing to change the access to a road that is managed by VicRoads, your application will be referred to VicRoads.
Referral authorities have 28 days to respond to the council. Some may object to the granting of a permit or specify conditions to be included on a permit. A referral authority and a council may reach agreement on requirements or conditions for particular kinds of applications. An application that satisfies the agreed requirements or conditions doesn't need to be referred.
Check clause 66 and the schedule to clause 66.04 of your planning scheme for referral requirements.
Read Planning Practice Note 54: Managing referral and notice provisions for more information about referrals.
Assessment and decision
The council planner prepares a report which describes:
- the proposal
- the relevant policies and planning scheme requirements
- the assessment process
- any submissions and referral comments, and the response to them.
The planner will make a recommendation about whether or not a planning permit should be granted. They have to judge how well a proposal meets policy objectives in the planning scheme, and they may have to strike a balance between competing objectives.
At the end of the notification period, if notice was undertaken, the council or responsible authority will assess the proposal and decide to:
- issue a notice of decision
- grant a permit
- refuse a permit.
A permit can be granted with or without conditions, and a proposal can only go ahead if all conditions are met. For example, a permit for a restaurant might be issued on the condition that a certain number of car parking spaces are provided.
The applicant and everyone that made a submission are informed of the council's decision via a Notice of decision or a Notice of refusal. The notice will outline the next steps you can take.
Decision to grant a permit
A permit is nearly always subject to specified conditions that must be met.
Issuing the permit:
- if there are no objections, council can issue the permit immediately
- if there are objections, council can only issue a Notice of decision to grant a permit – all concerned parties will receive a copy of the notice.
The Notice of decision to grant a permit doesn’t have the same legal status as a permit, but it signals council's intention to grant the permit and identifies the conditions to be included on it.
An objector has 28 days to lodge an application for review. If VCAT confirms that no application has been lodged within the 28 days, council will issue the permit.
If an objector lodges an application for review within 28 days of the notice being given, council can’t issue the permit. The application will be decided by VCAT.
If council issues a permit, you’ll receive a copy of the permit and the endorsed plans, unless the permit conditions require the submission of revised plans. These are important documents and should be kept in a safe place. Don't use the endorsed plans as your working plans.
Refusal to grant a permit
If the council refuses to grant the permit they’ll issue a Notice of refusal to grant a permit:
- the grounds for the refusal will be listed on the notice
- they’ll give a copy to you and all other parties involved in the application process
- information about applications for review to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is printed on the back of the refusal notice.
A council planner might let you know in advance if your application is going to be refused. This gives you an opportunity to make changes to the application that address council's concerns. You’re not under any obligation to make changes; sometimes there’s a fundamental difference between what you want to do and the council’s decision that can only be resolved at VCAT.
Council doesn’t have to accept the council planner's recommendation, and might refuse the application even if the planner recommended it. There are many reasons why it may be overturned.
When an application is refused you have 60 days from the date the notice of the refusal is given to apply to VCAT for a review of the decision. If you want to lodge an application for review, do it as soon as possible.
Permit conditions and expiry
Check the conditions carefully and note any that must be complied with before the use or development commences. For example, amended plans may be required or there may be a condition requiring a landscape plan to be prepared and approved by council.
You can’t act on the permit until your specific conditions have been met and the plans have been endorsed by council.
Most permits expire 2 years from the date of issue, however, specified times might be included as a condition of the permit.
You can lodge an application for review to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal if:
- your permit application is refused by the council or responsible authority
- the decision contains conditions you’re not happy about
- a decision hasn’t been made in time
- you’re an objector and council has issued a Notice of Decision to grant a planning permit.
If a permit condition is unacceptable, you have 60 days from the date the permit was issued or the Notice of decision to grant a permit was given, to apply for a review. If you want to lodge an application for review of the conditions, do it as soon as possible.
Failure to determine in time
If council fails to make a decision about the application within 60 statutory days, you can apply to VCAT for a review. The 60 days must be calculated in accordance with Regulation 32 of the Planning and Environment Regulations 2015.
If the 60 day limit is approaching, ask the council planner:
- what the recommendation will be
- when the decision will be made
- the reasons for any delay.
Reviews against the failure to make a decision are relatively uncommon because council usually makes a decision before the hearing date at VCAT. However, if a refusal is recommended, it may save you some time in the VCAT system if you have applied for a review under this provision. The appropriate action will depend on the particular circumstances.
Read more about the review process.
Planning permit application, if a planning scheme has changed FAQs
I have applied for a planning permit, but the municipal council has not made a decision. Do I need to continue with the planning permit application?
The council must apply the current planning scheme requirements when deciding on a planning permit application. If the planning scheme has changed since you lodged your application and a planning permit is no longer required for the proposed development, the council will decide that no permit is required.
As an applicant, you may choose to contact the council to withdraw your application.
I have a planning permit, but I don’t have endorsed plans from the municipal council. Do I need to get my plans endorsed under the planning permit?
The removal of a requirement to obtain a planning permit does not invalidate a planning permit that has already been issued. However, you may choose whether to act on the planning permit if you have not yet taken the benefit of it.
You may choose to act on your planning permit and proceed to obtain endorsed plans, and then apply for a building permit.
Alternatively, you may choose to carry out your development without acting on your planning permit by applying directly for a building permit and meeting the relevant requirements of the building regulations.
You should contact the council to advise if you do not intend to act on your planning permit.
I have a planning permit and endorsed plans, but I haven’t started works because I don’t have a building permit. Do I need to start from scratch?
The removal of a requirement to obtain a planning permit does not invalidate a planning permit that has already been issued. However, you may choose whether to act on your planning permit if you have not yet taken the benefit of it.
You may choose to act on your planning permit and apply for a subsequent building permit for the approved development under the planning permit.
Alternatively you may choose to carry out your development without acting on the planning permit, by applying directly for a building permit and meeting the relevant requirements of the building regulations. You should contact the council to advise if you do not intend to act on your planning permit.
I have a planning permit and a building permit and am constructing a development. Do I need to amend my planning permit if my plans change?
If you as the permit holder have acted on the planning permit, it is likely that you will continue to be bound by the permit. It is likely that you would be required to apply for an amendment to the planning permit or endorsed plans under the permit if there is a change to the proposed development. Contact your council to discuss if an amendment to the planning permit or endorsed plans is required.
Page last updated: 30/11/23