Residents have rights and often the hardest thing is knowing where to start.
Here is our Guide if you want to object to a development application:
Any development proposal goes through the following stages, and it is important to register your concerns early in the process – leave it too late and you may have no options.
1. Development proposals are submitted to council planning departments, and advertising notices are placed at the site but are only required to be displayed for a couple of weeks.
2. The written application and plans can be viewed at the council offices, or may be available via email on request (most councils are progressively digitising their planning application systems).
3. Objections to an application can be lodged with the council and should briefly and clearly detail your specific concerns, how the proposal may adversely affect you, and any improvements or changes you may want to suggest. Forms and instructions for objecting are on the council website.
4. The Planning Unit at council have to consider and respond to all objections and make a decision on the application (technically within 60 days but this limit is often exceeded). If there are enough objections or significant concerns, elected councilors may decide on the proposal instead (each council has different requirements for allowing application decisions to be made by councillors instead of the planning officers). If they deem it necessary, individual Ward Councillors can usually also “call-in” an application for a councillors’ decision.
5. There may be a submitters session some weeks prior to Council’s decision, where both the developer and the objectors promote their case to the councillors present (usually one or two Ward councillors) and the council planning officer.
6. Councilors may approve or reject a proposal, even if the Planning dept wanted to approve it. Councilors or the planning officer can also recommend that extra conditions or other changes be made before it can be approved.
7. It is in your interest to contact all councilors and make sure they understand your objections, and those of other objectors. Councilors are more likely to react if many residents have objections, but the key issue is that objections should be justified on planning grounds (ie, with respect to the council planning scheme).
8. Once the application is decided, Council will send out a NOD (notice of decision) for either approval or refusal. If the developer or the objectors feel that the outcome was unreasonable they can appeal to VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) where it can be reviewed and argued from scratch (a “merits review”), usually with lawyers and witnesses on the developers side.
9. VCAT can be very expensive with the fee increases introduced in June 2013, but you can represent yourself. The VCAT web site has details. If you were not an objector at the council stage, you usually cannot appeal to VCAT. Once VCAT has handed down its decision, you have no avenue of appeal except to the Supreme Court, and only then if you can prove VCAT erred on a technical point of law.
So our advice is:
- Get involved early.
- Rally neighbors and community, check our community contact list
- Involve your councilors – they all vote.
- Do your research – the strongest arguments are breaches of planning guidelines and standards .
- Check our Frequently Asked Questions for further information on particular issues.