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Building permit amendments and the planning permit

Builders sometimes raise concerns when a minor amendment occurs to the building of a home and a planning permit is in place. Some building surveyors permit minor variations to proceed as they consider these as still being consistent with the planning permit and others require an amendment to the planning permit. This takes time and adds additional costs to the development. The Building Act requires a relevant building surveyor not to issue a building permit unless satisfied that any relevant planning permit or other prescribed approval has been obtained and the building permit will be consistent with the planning permit.

Dealing with variations

The main issue is the inconsistency in the way relevant building surveyors approach dealing with a minor variation that is proposed either prior to the building permit being issued or during the build process. This could include a minor change to location of a window or a change to a cladding profile. Some will accept a minor change where others require an amended planning permit.

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has two documents on their website that provide advice on planning and building consistency:

1. Minister's guideline – MG-11 sets out the steps a relevant building surveyor should take to establish whether a building permit is consistent with the relevant planning permit.  

The guideline states that for amendments the relevant building surveyor should follow the steps similar to that of a new application.

2. An information sheet PN 44-2018 Building permit and planning permit consistency.

Checking consistency with the planning permit 

It’s important to note that the primary responsibility for determining whether or not a proposed building permit or variation to a building permit is consistent with a planning permit rests with the relevant building surveyor.

There are a number of ways that clarification can be sought to determine if the proposed building permit or amendment/variation is consistent with the relevant planning permit. This includes by seeking a written report confirming consistency or identifying any inconsistency between the planning permit and the proposed building permit from any one of the following: 

  • the responsible authority (in most cases, the relevant council)
  • an appropriately qualified and experienced planning consultant
  • an architect experienced in planning matters.

To enable the building surveyor to adequately consider a building permit or amendment to a building permit that incorporates minor inconsistencies with the planning permit you need to provide a report that addresses some key elements such as:

  • the height, area, form and configuration of the proposed building work or any part of the building work
  • the location of the proposed building on the land, including setbacks from boundaries; the location of windows, doors and privacy screens
  • any conditions of the planning permit that have specific construction requirements or that require specification construction details

the proposed use of the building work.

Obtaining advice 

A building surveyor can obtain advice from a person qualified and experienced in reading planning schemes to provide a report to the building surveyor. This report can be used to confirm that there are minor variations to the building permit that are different from the planning permit, but they are still consistent with the planning permit and would not breach the requirements of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

This can include a solicitor with experience in planning matters, a planning consultant, or another building surveyor with appropriate qualifications and experience.

In many cases this can reduce the time delay of having the building surveyor submit the application to the relevant authority (council) for that confirmation.

The person must be appropriately qualified and have professional indemnity insurance. In most cases the building surveyor will ask that person to provide a CV detailing their experience and qualifications.

It’s important to discuss using a consultant with the relevant building surveyor for the project before you engage one to ensure that they will accept that process. A building surveyor should choose a source of professional advice carefully, remembering that the responsibility for compliance with Section 24 of the Act remains with the building surveyor.

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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