The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is part of Victoria’s legal system and hears a number of civil matters including planning appeals, which comprise 6% of the tribunals workload.
This morning Justice Ian Ross, President of VCAT, visited Maroondah City Council to discuss the strategic direction of the tribunal. Ian discussed VCAT’s approach to planning and suggested improvements that would assist Councils in being able to be fairly represented during hearings, including a right of reply to reaffirm decisions. Currently VCAT hears all matters in King Street in the CBD and Justice Ross suggested that VCAT could explore a presence in suburban locations, to make it easier for people to attend hearings.
It is encouraging that VCAT is developing a strategic plan that includes consultation with stakeholders and aims to improve the response time of decisions.
Ultimately improvements to the planning system requires action from the State Government. Currently either applicants or objectors can appeal a planning decision to VCAT, where they disagree with the decision made by a Council. This has the effect of eroding local government and State Government legislation should be amended to respect the decisions made by councils, where the outcome was consistent with planning policies.