To Detail or Not to Detail

Regular permit applicants will be familiar with conundrum of how to describe projects on planning permit application forms.

Is the application for; ‘a dual-occupancy’, ‘development of land with two double storey dwellings’, ‘ a new dwelling behind an existing dwelling’ or [add you preference here]. Similarly, another application could be described as, “a five storey apartment complex”,  “an apartment complex, associated car park dispensation, removal of native vegetation tree,  partial demolition and alterations to a heritage building” or “multiple dwellings on a lot”.

Permit applicants have their own individual preferences. So to do Municipal Councils. Some prefer accurate but simple descriptions. Others prefer each individual permit trigger to be listed on the application form.

So, what is the best way to describe your application? Both the VCAT and Supreme Court have previously provided guidance on this issue. In Nelco Holdings Pty Ltd v Yarra Ranges SC [2006] VCAT 148 the tribunal held that:

To require each relevant permission under the scheme to be identified in the application form in fulfilment of the requirement to state clearly the use, development or other matter for which a permit is required is inconsistent with authority, contrary to the text of the requirement, and contrary to policy

 Similarly, in Sweetvale Pty Ltd v Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal [2001] VSC 426 the Supreme Court noted:

The application is not to be construed technically or strictly as one might a statute or a deed. As Tadgell J observed in Marock Pty Ltd v Billjoy Pty Ltd [1981] VicRp 41; [1981] VR 413 at p 418: “The question is what it would fairly convey to those for whose information it is required to be prepared.”

 With the above considerations in mind, we recommend that you do not seek to list all the permit triggers on your application form or provide a technical description of your proposal. Rather, we recommend applicants use a layman’s description of what is being proposed, with just enough detail to make it clearly understood.

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Information contained in this publication should be considered as a reference only and is not a substitute for professional advice. No liability will be accepted for any loss incurred as a result of relying on the information contained in this publication. Seek professional advice in specific circumstances.
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