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18 October 2020

VCAT Revamped Short Cases List

VCAT recently launched it’s revamped Short Cases List (SCL) to deal quickly and efficiently with more straightforward cases. VCAT has stated that changes to the SCL are intended to improve its ability “to process, hear and determine cases more efficiently”.

To support this change, VCAT has now released a new fact sheet dated 01 August 2020. The fact sheet is intended to assist applicants to determine whether a matter is suitable to be listed and heard under this list.

Typically, cases with limited parties; limited issues in dispute; any VicSmart refusals; and that are capable of being heard and determined within three hours, will be deemed suitable to be allocated under the SCL. Longer and more complex disputes will continue to be allocated to the ‘standard’ or ‘major cases list’.

The real benefit of the revamped SCL is the shortened and defined timeframes available to applicants. Most matters will be listed for a hearing within approximately 12 weeks of lodgement. Two hours will be allocated for the presentation of submissions and evidence. A further hour will be available to allow the Member to prepare and deliver a decision. 

Importantly, any application that can be made in the Planning and Environment Division may be included in the SCL. Further, evidence can still be called as appropriate, but due to the shortened and more streamlined timeframes of 12 weeks, there is reduced scope to formally amend plans. 

In line with new VCAT procedures that have eventuated as a consequence of Covid-19 restrictions and the need for the Tribunal to adapt to facilitating proceedings via the various online platforms available, the SCL initiating order will require:

  •  Not less than 7 days before the hearing, all parties must provide VCAT and all other parties with written submissions addressing the key issues relevant to that party.
  • No further written submissions will be required at the hearing.
  • The responsible authority is required to include draft ‘without prejudice’ permit conditions as part of its submission.
  • The draft ‘without prejudice’ permit conditions will be discussed at the end of the hearing. 

A significant benefit in requiring all parties to circulate written submissions not less than 7 days before the hearing, is the ability for the relevant VCAT member to understand and consider the key issues in dispute prior to the proceeding. Unless the Member requires clarification, matters that are not in dispute will be taken ‘as read’.

Our experience to date dealing with matters through the revamped SCL is that hearings have run smoothly and efficiently; all parties, including the Member, are able to enter the hearing with a clear understanding of the relevant issues in dispute; and Members will generally prepare and deliver an oral decision at the hearing. 

The significant benefits for our clients in utilising this list (when appropriate) are:

  • Reduced timeframes – approximately 12 weeks between lodging an appeal and the hearing.
  • The ability to reduce consultant costs by streamlining the appeal process. This includes reduced costs associated with written submissions that are now required to accord with the requirements of VCAT’s new ‘SCL submissions template’. The SCL submissions template provides an ‘issues focussed’ format.
  • FastTrack decisions with the ability for Members to issue an oral decision at the hearing.

For short cases, as an alternative to a SCL hearing, parties also have the option to request the Tribunal to decide the case ‘on the papers’ under section 100(2) of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998, without attending a hearing. This option is only available if all parties agree, but one that can be explored further if there is confidences in the strength of your written appeal being determined favourably ‘on the papers’.

If you have a future hearing that you feel may be suitable for lodgement under the SCL, please speak with your relevant contact at ratio: to discuss further.

 

Author: Simon Martin, Planning Director

 

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