Understanding Planning Permits For Your Business

When the words “planning permit” are brought up in conversation, people often link them to renovating houses or putting up new office developments. The last thing that companies or sole traders think about is whether a planning permit is needed when it comes to trading as a business.

Fortunately, there are experienced professionals who can help navigate the planning permit process.

What is a planning permit?

It is a legal document, normally with written conditions that have to be met, and a set of plans, that allow certain usage and/or development on a section of land. It is not a building permit which is where the confusion often occurs. Building permits are a requirement as these relate to the type of construction of a building or a planned development. In a number of cases, both a planning permit and a building permit may need to be obtained.

Most planning permit applications would be presented to the local council but there are some circumstances where the application has to go to the Minister for Planning. This is where it really helps to speak to a town planner in Melbourne who has expertise and knowledge of the local area.

Trading and planning permits

Before a business begins trading, they have to confirm if they need a planning permit to confirm the Council has approved the proposed use of the land/buildings for that trading use. If your business is required to get a planning permit and you choose to ignore this, the Council can stop you trading and also issue you with a fine.

In Victoria, the online Planning Permit Activity Reporting System (PPARS) has been collating information and data since 2007 to assist with monitoring permit activity and providing information to inform on planning decisions. This is used by the town planners to monitor permit applications, look at the trends, review how long they take to process, and objections received as well as much more. If you start to trade without a permit, this will be flagged up and you can find yourself in trouble with the Council.

Preparation before trading commences

A business needs to build in time before they begin trading. It can take up to months for the planning permit to be successfully granted. Town planning consultants are the first point of contact as they can review what your proposed business or change of use is going to be to confirm if you do need to apply for a planning permit. They can also help in speaking to the local Council as a number of them now offer business support to help with all the information needed to move into new premises and before you begin to trade. Sometimes, the “business concierge” service could help you negotiate business leases with a rent free or reduced rental period whilst awaiting the planning process. As the planning process can take between 6-8 months, in some cases, this service can be invaluable especially for a new business start-up.

What can be carried out before the planning permit is in place?

It could be that your business plan requires activities or trades on site before the planning permit to trade comes through. Speak to a local planner, so they can go through what sort of work you can make a start on in the first instance. If you are going for a Change of use application then internal redecoration, new floors, shelving and general refit does not need a planning permit. These jobs can be completed so that when the planning permit goes through, you are ready to trade. However, you don’t want to spend dollars getting the business ready for the planning permit to be refused, so have a discussion about your plans with your town planner first.

Taking over existing approved premises

Ideally, if you can take over premises which have already been granted a planning permit, this would make life a lot easier. However, what you need to look at is the existing planning permit because you would have to keep to all of the conditions of that permit. The business that you take over from does not have to be exactly the same as your business, but you are looking at prior approval for a similar use. So, if you want to trade in wholesale pet food and looking to take on a warehouse that dealt with wholesale food and drink to the catering industry, that site may well be beneficial. Similarly, other types of conversions could fit the bill and still not require a new planning permit.

When in doubt, speak to the professionals and begin trading with confidence!