The Difference Between Town Planning Permits and Building Permits

The Difference Between Town Planning Permits and Building Permits


The town planning process provides developers, home owners and builders with a planning permit. Sometimes this can be confused with a building permit.  I will explain the differences below.

Building Permit

A building permit provides you with certification that your project complies with the relevant building legislation and codes and will be built correctly.  A building permit is written approval that is provided by either a Council or private building surveyor.  It can included approved plans, specifications and associated documentation on how the works will be undertaken.  As part of the building permit process there will be inspections at key stages and a final inspection or occupancy certificate issued on completion of the project.

According to the Victorian Building Authority:

“The Building Act 1993 (the Act) and Building Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) state that all building work requires a building permit, unless an exemption exists under the Regulations.”

It is important to seek advice from your local council or a private building surveyor to confirm if you require a building permit for your project.

If you would like more detail on the building permit process heard to the Victorian Building Authority website.

Stamped Approval

Town Planning Permit

A Town Planning Permit is the written approval from the town planning department of the local Council that you can use or develop the land in a specific way.  Town planning permits aren’t always required but if they are needed they come before the building permit.

You can only apply to the relevant local Council for a planning permit.  As part of the town planning process you will need to provide written support for your proposal as well as plans of the site and proposal.  If the project is approved a planning permit will be issued and the plans will be endorsed.  Both of these together form the complete planning approval.

The planning permit will contain a number of conditions of the approval as well as a time limit within which you must act.

Parts of a Planning Permit


The first section provides details on the address of land and what the planning permit is for.


Underneath that are the list of conditions.  The first condition is where the Council commonly requests any changes that are needed to the plans before they can be endorsed.  Other conditions that may be put on the planning permit include things such as drainage requirements,; specific use controls such as hours of operation details of car parking or crossover construction works as well as the time limit you have to enact the planning permit.


Council’s often add another section to the end of the planning permit called notes. These are general comments that may be relevant to your project, but are not specific to the proposal. Things like the process for the allocation of street numbers or that a building permit is still required.

Approval Details

The planning permit will also be signed and dated. It is this date that is relevant for any time limits that apply.

Some of the planning permit conditions will remain in force for as long as the use continues, for example an approval for a café with a condition specifying particular operating hours will remain until the use finishes or the permit is amended.  It is important to read and understand all the conditions of your planning permit.

More information on town planning can be found here.

At Change of Plan we specialise in getting town planning approval for our clients. If you are unsure whether you will need a town planning permit you can contact us to discuss your project and we will be able to advise you accordingly.