When Is A Town Planning Permit Required?

When Is A Town Planning Permit Required?

Sometimes people come to us in a panic. They didn’t realise that their project required a town planning permit until they were a fair way into their new venture. Suddenly Council contacted them or even initiated enforcement action. By this time, they have already spent considerable time and/or money on the project and face the possibility that it could all be for nothing if the Council refuse their application, not to mention the potential for fines or infringement action from the Council.

So What Can Be Done To Avoid This Situation?

Seek expert advice early on. Don’t rely on something that your sister’s boyfriend thinks he heard about! Make sure to speak to the Council or a private town planner to verify whether a town planning permit may be required for what you want to do. Also, when speaking to the Council be aware that they can get things wrong too. Make sure if someone says that you don’t need a planning permit that you request (and pay for if necessary) written advice on that. If it isn’t written down the advice doesn’t exist if Council change their mind later!

What Are Some Of The Main Triggers For A Town Planning Permit?

Some of the main reasons that a planning permit is required include:

  • Constructing a building or works
  • Changing the use of the site
  • Less car parking provided on site than is required
  • Vegetation removal
  • Earthworks (cutting into or filling part of the site)
  • Fences
  • Signage

While this list is not definitive, it can give you an idea of some of the main reasons that town planning is required. It is important to know that there can be more than one reason that a planning permit is required, and consideration of all of the triggers and planning controls are necessary to avoid planning. For example, if the use you propose doesn’t trigger a planning permit but there is car parking required that you can’t provide, you will still need a planning permit for the waiver of car parking.

Next Steps Before You Start A New Project

Personally my approach is to start by assuming that a town planning permit is required. I then work backwards to check if I can prove that a planning permit isn’t required. Such an approach means you are less likely to be caught unawares. Then, if a town planner confirms that a planning permit isn’t necessary you will be pleasantly surprised!

Seek out information from a town planner. Most Council’s offer a paid preliminary advice service. However, you can start by calling or visiting the Council directly to discuss the proposal. At Change of Plan we also offer a planning advice service, which can be particularly useful to understand complex planning controls that affect your site (and potentially if there is a way to avoid them).

Special Council Services

Some Council’s such as Maribyrong Council are introducing services to help people that are looking to set up a business. They have introduced a service to guide new businesses through the registration process by connecting them with various departments involved in a new business such as planning, health and building. This is a fantastic service that provides start ups with a solid introduction into the various registrations and approvals that they will need. Hopefully this will be offered by more Council’s in the future. Anything to help start ups throughout Victoria with support and guidance from an early stage is a great initiative. We have heard that Greater Dandenong Council have just started investigations in to how they can better support businesses. We will be providing feedback to them and hopefully they may establish a similar system to guide businesses as well in the future.

And remember, always try to get written confirmation of any planning advice. Paying a few hundred dollars for written advice from the Council can save a lot of heartache or wasted time further down the tack!