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  • Carmel Homes

When is a Planning Permit Required?

Local planning laws are designed to help maintain the character and amenity of an area. By controlling the type and scale of development that can be carried out, they protect the liveability of that location. They also help establish and maintain a minimum standard for the quality of design and building works.

As such, if you want to change or update a residential property significantly, you may require a planning permit. This gives your local council a chance to confirm that your plans fit the requirements for your area. It also allows for a consultation period, during which other community members impacted by the works can provide their feedback.

Here, we take a closer look at planning requirements, including which works usually require a permit. We will also explore the application process and share our advice on getting through it as easily as possible.

Getting a planning permit

What works require planning permission?

As planning policy is mostly set and administered at the local government level, exact requirements vary from location to location. That said, in most parts of Victoria, the rules around what you need a planning permit for are fairly similar. Specifically, most councils require you to apply for permission before you:


  • Build a new house: If you are planning to construct a single dwelling, there are several permits you may require (planning, occupancy, etc.). If you want to build more than one dwelling on your lot, additional planning requirements will need to be met.

  • Subdivide: Planning permission is also required if you want to split an existing building or block into two separate lots. However, if you want to consolidate multiple blocks into one lot, you generally will not require a planning permit.

  • Renovate or extend an existing house: Depending on the updates you intend to make, you may need to seek council permission before beginning renovation works. This is particularly important if you intend to alter the façade, footprint, or roofline, and the property is heritage protected.

  • Build a shed, garage, or carport: While not “liveable space,” some outbuildings can have a major impact on the form and function of your home. As such, if you are planning to build a significant additional structure, you may require a planning permit.

  • Build a patio or pergola: Similar to sheds and carports, outdoor entertaining spaces can change how your home looks and is used. As such, depending on the design of the structure, a planning permit may be required before it is built.

  • Install boundary fencing: As it helps define your property, a planning permit may be required to build front, side, or rear fencing. However, you do not need permission to undertake routine maintenance and repairs (e.g., replacing damaged panels).

  • Install certain home services: As solar panels and water tanks alter the profile of your house, you may require a permit to install them. Similarly, you may need to seek permission before installing an external air conditioning unit, satellite dish, aerial, or antenna.

For information on the exact planning requirements in your area, please consult your local council’s planning policy. For example, if you are planning work in the City of Boroondara, you should refer to the Boroondara Planning Scheme.

It is also important to note here that a planning permit is different to a building permit. Where planning permits approve the development of land, building permits certify that building works comply with the relevant regulations. As such, depending on the work you want to undertake, you may require both a planning and a building permit.

If this is the case, you need to get your planning permit from your local council first. You can then engage a registered building surveyor – either through the council or privately – and apply for your building permit through them. This is because your building permit should certify that work will be completed in accordance with the approved development plans.

Planning permit chess
Getting a planning permit shouldn't be like playing chess.

Applying for a planning permit

Regardless of what you require a planning permit for, the application process is usually largely the same. Generally, it can be broken down into these four key steps:


  1. Identify the relevant planning requirements: The level of detail you need to provide in your application will depend on the type of project you are planning. As such, you should first find out which controls apply to your property and the works you have planned. The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website and the local council’s planning scheme are great places to start.

  2. Develop and socialise your plans: Once you know the limitations you are working within and the criteria you need to fulfil, you can develop your plans accordingly. Once you have documented your ideas in reasonable detail, share this with your neighbours and ask for their feedback. This will allow you to address their concerns before submitting your application and should avoid issues during the consultation phase.

  3. Prepare and submit your application: Then, when you are happy with how your plans are looking, you can start putting together your formal application. To help with this, most councils offer pre-application meetings, where you can check you have all the documentation you need. Once you do, you can submit everything to the council and pay the required fees (the application fee, Metropolitan Planning Levy, etc.).

  4. Respond to any requests for further information: In some instances, once they have done an initial review of your plans, the council will ask for additional details. This could be because there are gaps in the information you provided or because they are concerned about certain elements of your proposal. Either way, it is important to read their request carefully and provide the required information within the stated time frame.

I want to knockdown and rebuild – when should I apply for planning permission?

As the name suggests, a knockdown rebuild involves knocking down an existing structure and building a new one in its place. As such, these projects tend to be much more complex than a standard new build. They also require additional approvals from the local council to be carried out – particularly in relation to the demolition works.

This makes having a robust and complete project plan particularly important when you choose to knockdown and rebuild. It also means that activities need to be scheduled carefully to make sure they are in the right order. Timing the submission of your permit applications is especially important, as getting this wrong could result in significant delays.

With this in mind, when planning a knockdown and rebuild, we generally recommend getting all the appropriate approvals upfront. This will mean you can move easily from one phase to your project to the next, speeding up the process. It also minimises the risk of you running into planning issues after you have already knocked down the existing property.

Tips for navigating the planning process

For many people, applying for a planning permit is a stressful and time-consuming process. However, there are a few simple things you can do to make this a much easier and more relaxed experience. For example, we advise all planning applicants to:


  • Aim to contribute to, not dominate, the streetscape: Councils prefer developments that blend in with and add to an area’s unique character rather than contrasting against it. For example, they are unlikely to support having a multi-storey French Provincial home sitting amongst more modest single-level properties. As such, it is important to make sure any structures you are proposing fit well within the local landscape.

  • Consider the neighbouring properties: Building on the previous point, council planning teams also prefer developments that provide a visual bridge between their neighbours. For example, your front setback should be an average of how far the neighbouring properties are set back from the street. Similarly, your design should ideally reflect the other styles (French Provincial homes, modern home designs, etc.) prominent in the area.

  • Try to find local precedents: Planning teams can be hesitant to set new precedents by approving applications with features previously unseen in the area. As such, it is best to be guided by the structures and approaches already adopted by other local residents. This is not to say you cannot be creative – rather, that plans with familiar features are more likely to be approved.

  • Include landscaping plans: Well-designed landscaping can help soften the design of a structure, making it feel more grounded. As such, local councils like to see major development applications that include details of the proposed landscaping. Providing this information as part of your initial submission can increase your chances of approval and speed up the process.

  • Consult the experts: Whether you choose to engage a local architect or custom home builder, their experience can be invaluable. They should be aware of the applicable planning requirements and be able to help you make sure you fulfil them. If you work with a custom home builder, they will also be able to help you bring your approved plans to life.

Want to discuss this further?

If you would like more information on planning permits or need help navigating the application process, contact Carmel Homes. As one of Melbourne’s leading design and build companies, we are familiar with the different planning requirements in different parts of the city. We also have significant experience securing planning permits for our clients.

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