“Incorporated” v “Reference” Docs

Regular users of Victoria’s planning scheme should be familiar with both ‘incorporated documents’ and ‘reference documents’.

Any incorporated documents are listed at Clause 81.01 of the relevant planning scheme. Reference documents are generally listed at the end of the policy to which they relate.

But what’s the difference between an incorporated doc and a reference doc, and why does it matter?

For permit applicants, the most important difference between ‘reference documents’ and ‘incorporated documents’ is the weight they are given in decision-making. Because incorporated documents go through a planning scheme amendment process, including public exhibition and panel hearings to be incorporated into the planning scheme, they are given more weight than reference documents. The departmental practice note relating to incorporated documents suggests that they carry the same weight as any other provisions contained in the planning scheme.

Examples include:

Bass Coast Shire: Cape Paterson Management Plan, Shire of Bass Coast

Campaspe Shire: Campaspe Local Floodplain Development Plan – Precinct of Bendigo (Picaninny & Mount Hope) Creeks, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, North Central Catchment Management Authority and Campaspe Shire.

Stonnington City Council: Burke Road Glen Iris Level Crossing Removal Project, Incorporated Document

In contrast, reference documents generally provide background information to assist in understanding the context within which a provision has been framed and are not required to endure the planning scheme amendment process. Rather reference documents can simply be documents approved by the local council and ‘referenced’ in the planning scheme. And should be given very little weight, if any, in decision making.

Examples include:

Surf Coast Shire: The Surf Coast Shire Indigenous Planting Guide (2003), referenced at Clause 21.03 Environmental Management;

Nillumbik Shire Council: The Research Industrial Estate Development Guidelines, reference at Clause 22.08 Industrial Areas Policy;

Moonee Valley City Council: Moonee Valley Next Generation 2035 Community Vision, referenced at Clause 21.05 Housing.

The important point for permit applicants to take away is that incorporated documents are given more weight than reference documents by Council and VCAT in determining your applications. Applicants should consider relevant incorporated documents when preparing planning permit applications – especially if the local policy is a little light-on in support of your proposal.

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