Council is required by law to enforce the planning scheme, especially if a breach causes detriment to the community or compromises development standards.
A planning scheme is a law that regulates the way land can be used and developed. As with any other law or regulation, planning schemes are only effective if their requirements are enforced.
Enforcement will occur when there is a clear breach of:
- the Planning and Environment Act
- the planning scheme
- permit condition
- Section 173 agreement.
Council employs Planning Enforcement officers to assist with planning enforcement matters.
The main emphasis of enforcement is to obtain compliance rather than on prosecuting offenders, however, punishment for some types of offences may be necessary as a deterrent.
Depending on the nature and seriousness of the problem, Council can do one or more of the following:
- negotiate informally with the alleged offender to obtain compliance.
- serve a planning infringement notice – usually for less serious breaches or matters. A planning infringement notice is the same as an on the spot fine.
- prosecution in the Magistrate’s Court. This may be needed to follow up either an infringement notice or an enforcement order. The court can impose a fine of up to $120,000 plus court costs.
- apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for an enforcement order to achieve compliance.
- apply to VCAT for an interim enforcement order where there is a need for immediate action.
- request VCAT to cancel or amend a permit – for example, for a substantial failure to comply with the conditions of a permit.
- contempt charges for non-compliance with Enforcement Orders can be heard before VCAT or a Court with fines of up to $500,000 or 5-year jail terms.
Other enforcement options may be available in certain circumstances, including seeking injunctions from the courts or in rare cases carrying out the works to secure compliance and then seeking to recover the costs.
If you are uncertain whether your proposal requires planning approval, or to report a planning infringement, contact Council’s Statutory Planning on 1300 88 22 33 or 9298 4598.