As most readers will be aware, when Council requests further information in relation to your planning permit application, they will specify a lapse date by which time the information must be provided. If the information is not provided then the application will lapse. Council can only specify a lapse date if they make a request within 5 business days after receiving a VicSmart application or 28 days after receiving any other application. Applicants are able to request an extension to the time frame in writing. Recent cases before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) have considered when applications lapse, the provision of information by applicants and requests for extensions of time.
In Direct Planning v Moreland CC  VCAT 1770 a planning permit applicant appealed Council’s decision to refuse to extend the lapse date on a request for further information (RFI).
Pursuant to Regulation 34(2) of the Planning and Environment Regulations 2015 (the Regulations) an appeal against Council’s refusal to extend the lapse date of a RFI must be made before the last of:
- the lapse date specified in the RFI
- the new lapse date set out in any time extension
- if the permit applicant has made an application to the Tribunal under section 78(b) of the Act in respect of a requirement for more information and the Tribunal has confirmed or changed the requirement, the new lapse date determined by the Tribunal under section 85(3) of the Act.
In the above case Council had set an RFI lapse date of 18 July 2018. Further information was hand delivered to the Council on 18 July 2018 including a letter with a paragraph seeking an extension, if required. That request is a common response provided with the return of the RFI as insurance, in case Council determines the information provided is not sufficient. However, because that request to extend the lapse date was made on the lapse date (18 July 2018) and not before the lapse date, it was not a valid request.
Council then advised that the information provided to Council was not to their satisfaction and because the request to extend the RFI lapse date was not provided before the lapse date, the application had lapsed.
The Tribunal agreed that the request to extend the lapse date was made too late. However, notwithstanding that Council thought the RFI response was deficient, the Tribunal found that because the applicant had provided further information on the lapse date, the application had not lapsed.
One conclusion which might be drawn from this Tribunal decision is that even if the RFI response is ‘not complete’, providing it is made on time, the application does not lapse.
This conclusion appears to be in contrast to how most Councils have been implementing Section 54B of the Act that states:
(1) An application for a permit lapses if the information required under section 54(1) within the prescribed time under that section … is not given by the final lapse date for the application. [our emphasis]
It has been generally accepted that Section 54B refers to ‘all’ of the information requested. However, the Tribunal’s decision (above) appears to suggest that not ‘all’ material must be provided in order to keep your application alive.
In light of the above, we would advise permit applicants to:
- Continue to apply for an extensions of lapse dates before the specified lapse date;
- Continue to include a cover-all request to extend the lapse date, should Council not be satisfied with the material supplied, as part of your RFI response before the lapse date;
- Take note of the above case. It will be useful if Council seeks to lapse your application on the grounds that you provided insufficient or unsatisfactory information in your RFI response.
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