Planning and building
Within Statewide planning laws, each municipality has a local planning scheme that describes what types of activities or developments may occur in areas of the municipality. Many activities require planning permits and these are usually issued by the council.
A planning permit authorises a specific proposed activity or development of land. A building permit authorises the construction or demolition of a building or structure if it complies with the building regulations.
The main planning activities of councils are considering and approving planning permits, under the planning scheme, and preparing and consulting on proposed changes to the planning scheme.
A planning permit is required if the planning scheme states that an activity can only be undertaken if a permit is granted. A planning permit is not required if the planning scheme states that the activity may be undertaken without a permit.
A planning permit may be required for:
- buying or leasing a property
- starting a business
- constructing, altering, demolishing or painting a building
- displaying a sign
- applying for a liquor licence
- subdividing land
- clearing native vegetation
- changing the use of a property
Contact your council for advice on whether a particular development or activity requires a planning permit. When calling, make sure you can accurately identify the property - usually the street address and nearest intersection is sufficient. It may be necessary for a search to made of the permit history and, if a written response is required, a fee may be payable.
Some other approvals and licences (eg for the sale of liquor or second hand goods) will not be given unless a valid planning permit has been issued. If, for example, you are planning to operate a restaurant, you will need to know if a valid planning permit for a restaurant applies to that property.
Planning schemes set out policies and provisions for the use, development and protection of land for an area. Each municipality in Victoria is covered by a planning scheme. These are legal documents prepared by the local council or the Minister for Planning and are approved by the Minister for Planning.
Planning schemes can be viewed from Planning Schemes Online.
An important part of a council’s planning scheme is the Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS). The MSS provides the broad outline and vision for existing and future land use within a municipality. It provides the rationale for the zone and overlay requirements and particular provisions in that council’s planning scheme.
Proposed changes to the zoning of land or to the controls in a planning scheme can be introduced as an amendment to the existing scheme. Generally an amendment is prepared by a local council and is subject to prescribed public notice and consultation processes.
Victorian law makes a clear distinction between a planning permit issued under the Planning and Environment Act and a building permit issued under the Building Act 1993. It is important to understand the difference.
- A planning permit authorises a change in the use of land and/or the development of land, if required by the municipal planning scheme
- A building permit authorises the construction or demolition of a building or structure if it complies with the building regulations. These cover things like the siting of most single dwellings, protection of adjoining property during construction, structural adequacy, light, ventilation and drainage
If a planning permit is required, the building permit cannot be issued until the planning permit has been issued, and must be consistent with the planning permit. What gets built must be consistent with the issued permits.
A building permit may only be issued by a licensed building surveyor. Most councils have municipal building surveyors on staff or contract, and they are responsible for the building control functions of Council, including issuing building permits.
Permits may also be issued by private building surveyors. Council is not responsible for work undertaken by private building surveyors. A list of licensed building surveyors is available form the Building Commission. Complaints about building surveyors and building practitioners may be made to the Building Commission.
A building surveyor issues a building permit, after confirming compliance with the building regulations. The building regulations are the only matters that the building surveyor is required to consider before issuing the building permit. A private building surveyor must lodge a copy of the building permit with your council within seven days of issue.
For more information about the building approval system, visit the Building Commission.