Planning Investigations and Enforcement
All use and development of land in the Bass Coast Shire must comply with the Bass Coast Planning Scheme. When required, Council officers may conduct investigations of planning compliance issues and take enforcement action. These officers are called Planning Enforcement Officers.
To learn more about Council’s planning investigation and enforcement process and the role of its Planning Enforcement Officers, click the drop-down menus below.
Our Planning Laws include the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic) and Regulations, the Bass Coast Planning Scheme, Planning Permits issued under the Planning Scheme and Section 173 Agreements entered into between Council and landowners.
These Planning Laws are designed to regulate the use and development of land in our Shire, to encourage and promote orderly and proper use, development and protection of land, enhance our natural and built environments and support community safety and amenity.
Council is legally authorised and required to enforce the planning laws in our Shire.
Planning Enforcement Officers investigate when there are uses and/or developments of land occurring which may be in breach of our Planning Laws. Examples include:
- A new use of land that is prohibited by the Planning Scheme or requires a Planning Permit to be lawful.
- Buildings and works occurring without a required Planning Permit.
- Non-compliance with an issued Planning Permit.
- Unlawful removal, destruction or lopping of vegetation protected by the Planning Scheme.
If you are not sure whether your proposed use or development of land, or works impacting any form of vegetation, will require a Planning Permit please contact Council’s Statutory Planning team for advice and assistance.
Council may investigate a reported planning compliance issue:
- In response to reports received by the Planning Enforcement Team. These reports come from various sources including residents, other Council Departments, and State and Federal Government agencies.
- As part of our on-going auditing of land use and developments, current Planning Permits and Section 173 Agreements.
- Following identification of changes to use or developments, or vegetation cover, on land using GIS mapping/satellite imagery.
When a potential planning compliance issue has been reported, the following steps are carried out:
- Assessing the Report Planning Enforcement Officers conduct an initial assessment to establish whether the report requires further investigation (e.g. whether the use or activity reported requires a Planning Permit, whether there is a current permit in place, what that permit allows, any other planning controls or exemptions).
- Investigating the Report If an investigation is warranted, Officers will then undertake further inquiries and will notify landowners/occupiers of the investigation and seek information from them about the report. Officers may also inspect the land.
Depending on the outcome of this investigation there are various options available, including:
- Taking no further action if there is no/insufficient evidence of a breach or it involves minimal impact
- Negotiating voluntary compliance
- Referral to other Council Departments for actioning (e.g. Community Safety, Building Services, Environmental Health)
- Referral to external agencies for actioning (eg. EPA)
- Issuing an Official Warning
- Issuing a Planning Infringement Notice (a fine and a direction to rectify)
- Seeking an Enforcement Order from VCAT
- Seeking to cancel or amend a Planning Permit in VCAT
- Prosecuting for the breach in Court and seeking a conviction and monetary penalties
Planning Enforcement action is invariably not a quick or simple process. Formal enforcement steps take time and rarely provide immediate results. If it becomes necessary to commence court or VCAT proceedings, the timeframe will be even longer. Planning Enforcement Officers have no power to stop work or compel compliance in the meantime. This can only be done by a Court or VCAT making an order.
Council’s main objective is to achieve voluntary compliance wherever possible and appropriate, rather than prosecuting offenders. The investigating Officer will determine the appropriate course of action based on a consideration of all the facts of the case and exercise of discretion.
For serious breaches however, and where Council has secured the necessary evidence to establish facts to the required standard of proof for criminal offences (including in appropriate cases of vegetation removal) prosecution may be the appropriate course of action.
It is important to note that our Planning Enforcement Officers are authorised officers of Council. This includes being authorised to do the following things as part of their duties:
- Take any action on entering land that is necessary to determine if a contravention has occurred, including taking photographs, recordings and removing samples.
It is an offence to obstruct an authorised officer taking authorised action in performance of their duties.
Planning Enforcement Officers are also constrained as to what actions they can take, and it is important that these limitations are understood when a report is made. For example – as mentioned above, they have no power to go on site and order a stop work, nor can they compel compliance. They cannot enter onto land without giving prior notice or obtaining consent. They cannot question people who refuse to be questioned. They cannot enforce against offenders who cannot be identified or act on suspicions without evidence.
Please complete the REQUEST below if you wish to report a suspected planning compliance issue. Full and complete information is required to enable Planning Enforcement Officers to assess the report and determine whether an investigation should be commenced. Anonymous or incomplete reports may not be investigated.
You will receive an automatic acknowledgement that this REQUEST has been successfully lodged with Council. You may not receive any further contact from Council regarding the investigation, unless you are asked to provide further information. You may also be required to provide a witness statement and give evidence in a Court proceeding.
Council’s role in investigating planning breaches is a law enforcement role. Other than as noted above, we are not able to provide you with details about our investigation or about any enforcement action that may be taken, for privacy and operational reasons.