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The recent announcements in relation to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) reopening following the COVID 19 closure have been welcomed by the development industry.
We're pleased to be able to bring our clients further information on how planning matters will be proceeding at VCAT courtesy of a VPELA webinar held this morning where the Deputy President of the Planning and Environment List, Teresa Bisucci, provided an informative update.
VCAT has been busily working in the background to put in place a digital system to allow hearings to be heard via online platforms and to relist matters that were adjourned during the shut-down period.
In order to keep things moving during the COVID 19 shut down, there have been up to 12 per cent of cases where the parties to the hearing have agreed for the matter to be determined on the papers without a formal hearing. If all parties are agreeable the Tribunal is willing to consider matters on the paper, even if listed for hearing.
Matters previously adjourned between March and May are in the process of being listed for hearing in August/September this year and will be conducted via telephone or online platform.
Hearings previously listed between 18 May to the 29 May 2020 have been adjourned until October to provide adequate preparation time, with a small number of compulsory conferences occurring in this period over the telephone.
Hearings currently listed between 1 June and 28 August 2020 will be heard online or via telephone conference, with a new requirement that all written submissions are issued to VCAT and parties prior to the hearing date.
If the participants opt for a traditional face-to-face hearing the matter will be adjourned until 2021 due to the backlog of existing cases and the need to consider social distancing criteria.
Whilst new VCAT matters lodged today are unlikely to receive a hearing date until 2021, the newly implemented short cases list will allow for an online hearing in 12 weeks’ time from lodgement if the matters in dispute are limited with all submissions and a decision issued in 3 hours duration.
It is also understood that all objector appeals will now have compulsory conferences listed for July this year which will be conducted by telephone or online platform, with hearings to follow in 2021 if not settled.
In other announcements, Major Case Hearings will no longer have automatic Practice Day Hearings, unless specifically requested to deal with administrative and legal issues, freeing up time for hearings.
Lastly, VCAT has advocated to the State Government for changes to legislation to allow for the implementation of a more streamlined approach to allow more matters to be considered on the papers, to reduce the matters in debate during a hearing, reduce the length of witness cross examination and shorten the length of VCAT decisions.
Overall, the updates today from VCAT confirm that hearings will be heard for the first time using online platform (likely zoom) for the foreseeable future with submissions circulated prior to the hearing date.
There are also some positive initiatives being pursued to reducing the length of VCAT hearings and written decisions, which will in turn free up time in the future for more cases to be heard.
If you have any queries in relation to the proposed changes to the VCAT planning list please contact our office to see how we can assist.
Author: Travis Finlayson, Director: Planning
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