Understanding planning jargon

Here is an explanation of the common terms you might come across in the planning and building process.

Section 173 Agreement

A Section 173 Agreement is a legal contract made between Council and another party, usually the property owner, under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic) s173. The agreement specifies what can or cannot be done on the land. For example the agreement may state no development or subdivision is allowed on the land, vegetation on the land must be protected, or that a facility on the land must be maintained. This agreement is registered on the title and stays with the land even if the ownership of the land changes.

Australian Height Datum

Australian Height Datum (AHD) is the nomination of levels on a property and refers to the height of a point above mean sea level, as determined by Geoscience Australia.

Relative levels

The relative level of a site is taken from an arbitrary point as determined by a land surveyor.

Built form

The built form is the shape and character of buildings and their overall contribution to a street or neighbourhood.

Certificate of Title

A Certificate of Title is a formal legal record about a particular piece of land. It contains basic information about the land including, current ownership. If you do not have a copy of the Certificate of Title for your land, you can obtain a copy from the Land Information Centre, Level 10, 570 Bourke Street, Melbourne. A Certificate of Title also records whether a Covenant, Section 173 Agreement or other restriction is registered on the land.

Easements

Easements are registered on title and are created to protect assets such as water pipes, electricity lines, sewerage pipes etc. Easements are usually made out in favour of a service authority.

Existing use rights

Existing use rights occur when your land is being used in a legal way, either because you have an approved permit or because the use was once approved (and a permit was not required) but then subsequent changes to the planning controls prohibited that use - for example, a factory that is legally operating in a residential zone because the land was once zoned industrial. Existing use rights can also occur if an illegal use has been carried out on a property for greater than 15 years; however, there are detailed criteria that need to be satisfied in order to qualify for "existing use rights". These requirements are detailed under Clause 63 of the Queenscliffe Planning Scheme.

Failure to determine

State Government regulations stipulate that Council must make a decision on a planning permit application within 60 days of the application being formally lodged, otherwise the applicant can refer the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). This is known as "Failure to Determine". If you are asked to provide further information for your planning application, the 60 days start from when all of the information is received. Public notification of an application interrupts the "statutory clock" as well.

Municipal Strategic Statement

The Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) guides development across the municipality and assists Council in assessing planning applications. The MSS, as well as various local policies and structure plans, also address things like the provision of local services, amount of open space, impact on parking and traffic, pedestrian facilities and much more.

Notice of Decision to grant a permit

A Notice of Decision (NOD) informs all parties involved that Council intends to grant a planning permit for an application where objections have been received. It includes instructions on how to appeal Council's decision to VCAT.

Notification, advertising period and public notification

Council may require advertising of your planning application to seek comments from the immediately surrounding community (your neighbours) to see if anyone objects to your planning proposal. This can be done through advertising in the local newspapers, on Council's website, signage onsite or by sending a letter to nearby households.

Overlays

Overlays come from the Victoria Planning Provisions and relate to land that has a specific issue such as heritage significance, environmental significance or flood risk. A single property may be covered by more than one overlay.

Planning permit

A planning permit is essentially legal permission from Council to make certain changes to your house or property or to use land in a certain way. This might include building a new fence, adding a second storey onto your home, building a second dwelling on the land and subdividing the property, among other things. The permit includes conditions stipulating what you can and cannot do in relation to those changes. Permits can be issued for use or development in residential, commercial, rural and environmentally significant areas.

Planning scheme

A planning scheme is a legal document that sets out policies and controls for the way land may be used. For example, what development is appropriate for housing or a shop/business and, what the height of a building should be and how much open space should be provided. All municipalities in Victoria have a planning scheme which is based on the State Government's Victoria Planning Provisions.

ResCode

ResCode is a set of provisions contained in Clauses 54 and 55 of all Planning Schemes across Victoria. Rescode incorporates some of the requirements of the building regulations and applies to residential developments across Victoria. Clause 54 relates to the construction or extension of one dwelling on a lot, depending on the size of the land. Clause 55 relates to the construction or extension of two or more dwellings on a lot up to and including three storeys in height.

Restrictive covenant

A Restrictive Covenant is a private agreement between land owners which may restrict the way land may be used and developed. This will be registered on the land's Certificate of Title. Council cannot issue a planning permit that breaches a covenant; however, a planning permit can be issued to vary/remove a covenant if all parties agree.

Refusal to grant a permit

This is where Council does not approve a planning application and does not grant the permit. A refusal can be appealed to VCAT.

Section 72 Amendment

A Section 72 Amendment is a proposed amendment to a planning permit and/or endorsed plans. Amendments of this type are generally considered to be significant and can include proposed changes to what the original permit allowed. These amendments can be advertised.

Secondary consent

You can apply for secondary consent where you want to make minor changes to your plan(s) and where a provision for change has been given in your permit conditions. For example, some planning permits include conditions that end with the phrase "...must not be altered without the written consent of the responsible authority". This means that you can apply in writing for secondary consent to make minor changes to your plans.

Statutory planning

the statutory planning team, also known as the town planning team, is responsible for considering applications for a planning permit, such as an application to build or extend a property, replace a fence, open a business or erect an advertising sign. Applications for planning permits are assessed against the policies and provisions contained within the Queenscliffe Planning Scheme.

Strategic planning

The strategic planning team considers the policies and controls that make up the Queenscliffe Planning Scheme and looks at the longer term vision and direction of Queenscliffe with regard to buildings, open space, economic development, location of services, and transport.

Setback

A setback describes how far back a building or house is on a piece of land in comparison to the title boundary. For example, if the title boundary is from the edge of the footpath, the setback is measured in relation to this point.

Subdivision

Subdivision refers to a piece of land that has been divided up to create more properties. For example, a large piece of land on a single title could be subdivided and redeveloped to have two or three townhouses on it, each on their own title.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is a State Government appointed panel of experts that independently reviews planning decisions made by Councils. If a developer or objector is unhappy with a council planning decision, they can appeal to VCAT.

Zones

Zones allocate land for different uses, such as residential, industrial or business. They outline what the land can and can't be used for and what buildings and works on that land may require a planning permit. Zoning comes from the Victoria Planning Provisions, and have the same requirements across all municipalities in Victoria. Zones can have "schedules", which allow a local municipality to vary some requirements of the generic zoning provisions.