The Victoria State government provide very clear information on their website about the up-to-date requirements of applying for a planning permit. However, depending on the development you are planning, it could involve a time-consuming process that includes navigating through different types of forms, ensuring you have collated and submitted the correct information.
Even experienced developers could fail to submit the right plans and documents as well as keep on top of everything else involved in a development project. First time investors would certainly need to seek professional help and guidance from the experts in urban planning.
The first step is to have a discussion about the property you plan to develop, particularly if you are looking to purchase a dwelling or site, with a professional whose expertise is in urban planning in Melbourne. This will save you a lot of money and time. For example, if you are planning to turn an industrial site into urban dwelling or a single unit into multiple occupancy, urban planners are able to advise if your planning permit stands a chance of success. They understand the planning laws and what would or would not be permitted or encouraged as part of the urban planning of the city and surrounding areas. If you own or plan to own a heritage property, discussing your ideas with an urban planner will guide and better inform your original vision to be a realistic project that the planning authorities will accept.
The second step is to get your plans prepared by a registered draftsperson, architect or designer. Urban planners work with several experts and once the plan is drawn up, they can check it considers the regulatory requirements. Plans should include a site survey by a licensed land surveyor if there are boundary queries. They also should include results of any soil tests or data about the foundations of the property and mandatory energy efficiency requirements. Any requirements of the local council must also be met within your plan.
Thirdly, talk to your neighbours if you are going to be redeveloping or building a new dwelling on land adjacent to them. As part of the planning process, they have the chance to object to any plans so if you are able to discuss with them what you are planning to do, it may be possible to make one or two small adjustments that you are comfortable with and that your neighbours would prefer, to ensure they do not submit a formal objection.
There are some applications that must seek ministerial approval from the Minister for Planning. This includes developments in certain areas in and around Melbourne such as the Port Phillip Planning Scheme and in Central Geelong if the plans involve large scale developments and buildings at height. Again, your planning consultants can advise on this type of application.
The planning permit usually contains the plans that you have drawn up and also the conditions you have to meet in order to build or renovate or change the use of land owned by the investor. Do not confuse this with a building permit which is related to the type of construction of any redevelopment or building works which you may also need depending on what you want to build.
In Victoria, there are three types of application:
- The standard permit application
- The VicSmart application
- The VicSmart Plus application
The VicSmart application process is a streamlined application process. However, you will need to check to see if your application falls under the criteria of this type of application. Note that there are 14 checklists that summarise the different requirements. The key features of VicSmart is that it is a ten-day permit process where the applications are not advertised. The CEO or delegate of the Council will decide on the application and the information that needs to be submitted and what they can consider is pre-set.
To qualify for a VicSmart application, your proposal has to be located in the specific zone, be one of the state application types and meet all the criteria. There was also a new VicSmart Class for Secondary Dwellings introduced in August 2020 as a pilot application in 4 planning schemes. It is a quicker process but working with a professional company who specialise in urban planning means they can check out this on your behalf and advise if you are able to use the VicSmart process, including VicSmart Plus.
Your urban planner can advise which councils will offer a pre-application meeting and they can attend these with you to ensure that you understand the process and know which questions to ask and which application route you need to take. All the application processes above still need you to complete an application form.
Complete the application form
It is important to clearly describe what it is you want the planning permit for and it included everything required for your building or redevelopment project. If you miss something, then it can mean you need to submit another application for a second permit. Include an accurate estimate of costings because this is what the council base the planning application fee on.
You will have to submit a current Certificate of Title (if you are not the landowner but applying on behalf of them, then include their details on the form as well). Copies of any restrictions placed on the use of the land such as a Section 173 agreement or registered restrictive covenant needs to be included.
Other information should also be included, which means sets of plans outlining elevations and floor plans, plus anything else that the council requires. If you miss something out at this stage, it can delay the application process because the council will not assess any application until they hold the full information.
Therefore, before lodging the application, the fee and all required information, increase your chances of a successful application by getting everything checked out by an expert in urban planning in Melbourne.