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Understanding Melbourne's Permit Requirements For Your Project

It’s difficult to undertake a renovation or building project in Melbourne or Victoria without addressing the permit requirements. All renovations and projects in Melbourne need to obtain the proper permits from the Authorities before building commences. This can be a complex and frustrating process.

The key to a successful permit application and great project design is to consider local permit requirements at the start of the project.

When you address them in the initial design and feasibility stages, with the help of an architect, the requirements can easily be incorporated resulting in a wonderful design outcome.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about Melbourne’s permit requirements.

Why Are Melbourne’s Permit Requirements Important?

Think of permits as the green light for your project. They ensure that your renovations or building work meets safety and design standards, as well as local regulations. Ultimately, this leads to peace of mind, a smoother building process, and a home that meets all the necessary requirements.

Planning and Building Permits

Melbourne requires both planning and building permits for construction or renovation projects. Each serves a unique purpose.:

Building Permit:

  • Focus: Ensures your project meets building safety and construction standards.

  • Issued by: A registered building surveyor

  • Needed for:

    • New dwellings

    • Extensions and alterations (e.g., extra rooms, renovations)

    • Decks, verandas, swimming pools

    • Structural repairs or replacements

    • Specific building works (e.g., retaining walls, fireplaces)

  • Examples: You'll need a building permit to ensure your extension is structurally sound, electrical wiring is safe, and plumbing meets regulations.

  • Doesn't consider: The overall design or impact on the surrounding area.

Planning Permit:

  • Focus: Regulate the land use and overall design of your development.

  • Issued by: Your local council

  • Needed for:

    • Significant additions or alterations (e.g., double-storey extensions)

    • Building in a heritage zone (even minor changes)

    • Changing the building facade

    • Subdividing land

    • Removing significant vegetation

    • Projects with potential environmental impact

  • Examples: You'll need a planning permit if your extension significantly changes the property's character, affects neighbours' views, or falls within a heritage zone.

  • Doesn't consider: The specific building details or construction methods.

A building permit will ensure you’re using the right materials and following the proper construction method to build something that’s safe and functional.

A planning permit, like a zoning law, considers the bigger picture. It ensures your project fits the surrounding area's aesthetics and doesn't disrupt the neighbourhood or environment.

In many cases, both a building permit and a planning permit are required to meet Melbourne's planning regulations.

The planning permit ensures compliance with local regulations and minimises negative impact on the surrounding area, while the building permit guarantees adherence to safety and construction standards

To determine which permits you need:

  • Check the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) website:

  • Consult your local council's planning department.

  • Work with your architect to navigate Melbourne’s building and planning permit requirements.This will help ensure you achieve the best possible outcome for your project.

Finding Your Permit Partner

Navigating the building permit process alone can be challenging, so it’s best to have your architect guide you.

Your architect will not only be familiar with the Melbourne building and planning permit requirements relevant to your project, but they can also ensure that the design of your home takes into account any site-specific restrictions, such as height or setbacks.

They can also ensure that there are minimal delays and rework needed for your design.

Melbourne’s Permit Requirements Journey:

As a guide, the process should follow these steps.

  1. Research and understand the permit requirements and any restrictions that are relevant to your site or project. This may include a pre-application consultation with the council.

  2. Incorporate these into the design of your building.

  3. Once the design is finalised, apply for the planning and building permits.

  4. Once the permits have been granted, construction can begin.

As an architect used to dealing with restrictions for heritage overlays, as well as sensitive environmental considerations, we find the earlier we reference the planning permit regulations, the better the design outcomes.

Our Sand Dune Sanctuary project is a great example where Melbourne’s planning requirements influenced the design.

Sand Dune Sanctuary Exterior

The site had restrictions on the height of the building, but instead of hindering the project, it actually led to some great design decisions and a wonderful outcome. By working within the project’s existing footprint, we successfully navigated around the restrictions.

If we had not referenced the permit requirements early in the design process, a lot of design rework would have been required, costing our client more and delaying the start of the project.

Here are some common scenarios where you might need a permit:

  • Significant additions: Building a double-storey extension or adding a granny flat.

  • Heritage overlays: If your property falls within a heritage zone, even minor changes might require a permit.

  • Altering your building facade: Changing the street-facing appearance of your home.

  • Subdividing land: Such as dividing a block.

  • Removing significant vegetation: Removing trees and other vegetation can be subject to planning permits if there are environmental overlays.

  • Building on land with specific environmental considerations: Such as bushfire or flood zones, where erosion control is required. Considerations may may also be in place concerning maintaining a certain aesthetic in an area, for example, restrictions on the height of your building.

Once your design is finalised with detailed plans and documentation outlining the project, the planning permit application can commence.

  1. Pre-application chat: Discussing your project with your local council can provide valuable insights before formally applying (see our experience above).

  2. Application submission: This involves detailed plans and documentation about your project. You will need an architect to draw these, as they need to be technically correct and include accurate details of dimensions, orientation, and more.

  3. Neighbours notification: Notifying your neighbours about your plans is an important next step to ensure you avoid any objections during the permit approval process.

  4. Public hearings (optional): In some cases, your project might require a public hearing for community input.

Ready to get started?

As a Melbourne-based architect working not only in Melbourne but also in regional surrounds such as the Mornington Peninsula and the Surf coast, we can assist.

Remember: Don't let permits hold you back. With a little planning and the right guidance, you can achieve your home renovation or building goals smoothly and compliantly.

Resources and Next Steps: Here are some handy resources to keep bookmarked:


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