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A recent presentation, run by the Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association, highlighted a number of notable reforms to VCAT, which we consider will be of interest to our clients and peers. These include:
- Updating and simplifying Tribunal orders to offer a more concise and targeted format.
- An expansion of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) processes to introduce mandatory compulsory conference for all Objector appeals. This expanded ADR process will be supported by and will include:
- Tribunal Members will receive additional arbitration training
- One compulsory conference only.
- Up to an additional 500 cases per annum under this stream.
- An increase in the proportion of new planning appeals undergoing ADR from 21% to 40% with an assumed 3%0 success rate, thereby unlocking Members’ time for merit hearings.
- A specialist registry, which was cited as a small team of experts to provide timely triage of new matters when lodged at the Tribunal.
- No practice day hearings for cases listed as ‘Major’; the onus is on Applicants to ensure compliance with proceedings / documentation.
- VCAT hearings to be expanded to suburbs in metropolitan Melbourne (e.g. Oakleigh, Frankston etc.).
- Formalising 5 sub-lists under the Planning and Environment List:
- Land and Valuation and Local Government;
- Environment and Resources;
- Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Heritage;
- Others (as needed).
- A ‘revamped’ Short Cases List (SCL) which will include any appeals for single dwellings or up to 4 dwellings with up to 3 parties.
We consider these changes as particularly important for the industry at large, and our clients, many of which are burdened by lengthy lead-times for smaller cases, such as minor townhouse developments, which will be expedited via the SCL.
The benefits extend beyond shorter listing times with greater emphasis on the spot oral decisions, or at the very least, concise written decisions within 2 weeks. These will have numerous flow-on effects and should assist in clearing up the overall back-log of appeals. The target is to have 15% of SCL cases heard under the Planning and Environment Act, which equates to approximately 500 per year.
These changes are heading in the right direction in an effort to streamline the appeals process without prejudicing natural justice and the integrity of VCAT.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss the above matters further, please don’t hesitate to contact Senior Planner Mitch Seach.