Media Response VCAT Appeal Decisions

Questions and Responses

How many of the council's planning decisions have been appealed from July 2018-now?

There has been a total of 241 appeals heard at VCAT from July 2018 to April 2020. This represents 9 per cent of all planning decisions.

Overturned at VCAT from July 2018-now?

There were 89 appeals where Council’s decision to refuse to issue a permit was overturned (set aside).

How much have the appeals - and prolonging the process in general - cost the council over that time? (July 2018-April 2020)

Council is still calculating its spend attributable to VCAT hearings.  This will take some time to reconcile.  We account for this in our general legal spend. 

UPDATED: Approximately $845,000.  Council always ensures that it has the most appropriate representation for appeals at VCAT and this includes the use of lawyers, planning consultants and expert evidence as required.  

Can you provide an example of an application that has been approved at VCAT, despite the council's initial refusal and significant community objections?

In September 2019 VCAT approved a planning permit for the construction of a six to seven storey building for the use of a retirement village at 554-558 High Street Road, Mount Waverley. Council maintained its position of not supporting the proposed development throughout the VCAT process. 

Another example is a multi-storey development at 807-811 Warrigal Road and 1513-1517 Dandenong Road, Oakleigh. Originally the applicant proposed 18 storeys. In late June 2017, VCAT approved the amended plans. Council had argued at the VCAT hearing that the proposal be reduced to eight storeys, as this would be more respectful of the surrounding area. However, VCAT did not agree with Council's position and approved amended plans for 10 storeys. 

Recently we have seen VCAT uphold planning refusals within Clayton’s residential growth zone:

  • In October 2019 VCAT refused a development comprising seven dwellings on a site at 3 Myriong Street, Clayton. Six of the units were three storey with the rear unit double storey.
  • In October 2019 VCAT refused a development proposing eight attached dwellings at 9 Myriong Street, Clayton.
  • In March 2020 VCAT refused a development at 1504 North Road, Clayton for the construction of seven dwellings (2-3 storeys).

What problems does this process/overturned decisions etc. for the council and what would you like to see done about it?

Council accepts that the planning process includes within it a review function to an independent Tribunal. In the cases where Council’s decision is not supported we accept the role the Tribunal has in considering a range of often competing interests. 

We would obviously welcome outcomes where our decisions are supported but acknowledge that not all refusal applications that are overturned remain the same proposal.  All that can be expected is that VCAT properly consider and apply the planning scheme and appropriate policies in making a determination on an application.   

Is the process unfair, such as giving developers the chance to introduce new information at VCAT, and do you think it takes into account the local knowledge council officers have about their communities?

New rules regarding new information at VCAT are a positive for Council and the community. In the past, new plans that reflected significant change to the original plan or increased its size could be introduced at VCAT hearings. This no longer is permitted. 

Transforming applications where they were significantly different at VCAT to that considered by Council was a significant issue.  Council firmly believes that a review process like VCAT where permit applicants and/or objectors have an ability to seek a further review of a planning decision is a necessary and fundamental part of the planning process. It is acknowledged however that VCAT, on review, may place a different weighting or interpretation of local policies than Council does.  Council cannot stress enough the importance of objectors choosing to be a part of any VCAT process, so that they can ensure that their views and concerns are heard. 

Issued: 8 May 2020
To: Leader
Quoting: Mayor, Councillor Stuart James