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When you need a planning permit

A planning permit gives you legal permission for a land use or development. 

Planning decisions will take into account:

  • how the development or land use will impact the environment
  • how the development or land use will impact the neighbourhood and neighbours.

A building permit is different to a planning permit. A building permit is needed to ensure a building is structurally safe and that it meets regulations. If you need a building permit, head to our building projects page.

Contact us to discuss your planning enquiry

Do you have a general enquiry about whether a planning permit is required for a proposed use or development? Do you have a question about the planning permit process?

To speak with a planning officer today, please contact 9240 1111.

To book a 10 minute face-to-face meeting with one of our planning officers, please visit our online booking page. A face-to-face meeting can only be booked from the following business day.

When you need a planning permit

  • You might need to apply for a planning permit if you are:

    • starting a business
    • changing the layout or purpose of your business
    • changing the location of your busines
    • adding a liquor license to your business
    • displaying new signage.

    New businesses may need other kinds of permits as well. The best way to find out the right information is through our Business Approvals process for starting a new business.

    Commercial priority

    If you are applying for a planning permit for a new or current business, you might qualify for commercial priority. Commercial priority is a separate stream for commercial planning applications. Commercial priority applications are assessed faster so that you can open your business sooner.

    A planning application qualifies for commercial priority if it meets all 3 of the below:

    • The proposal is for a new or expanding business
    • The proposal is supported by Council, and
    • The applicant has had a meeting with the relevant departments.

    To find out if your application qualifies for commercial priority see our:

    If you qualify, get started by requesting a pre-application meeting online.

  • You may need a planning permit if you are renovating or extending your house. This could include:

    • adding an extra room
    • building a pergola or deck
    • building a front fence
    • installing a new driveway
    • installing services like solar panels, a water tank or an air conditioner.

    You won't always need a planning permit for your renovation. It depends on the zones, overlays and planning permits that may cover the property you want to renovate.

    The best way to find out whether you need a planning permit for your house renovation is to speak to a planning officer before you lodge an application.

    You can do this by visiting the Planning Desk at our Coburg office, or by calling us on 9240 1111.

  • You always need a planning permit to build more than one dwelling on a lot. A dwelling includes a house, unit or townhouse.

    The number of dwellings you can build depends on the zoning of your land and the design of your development. There is no formula of dwelling numbers per lot size.

    It's not about how many dwellings could fit on a lot, but whether or not the proposal meets the requirements of the Merri-bek Planning Scheme, including ResCode.

    There are many factors that affect how many dwellings you can build, including:

    • site orientation to the sun in relation to shadowing on neighbouring properties
    • car parking and space for cars to turn
    • windows on abutting land that are close to the boundary
    • the slope of the land.

    If you are looking to buy a property and would like to know what you may be able to build, you should talk to an experienced draftsperson or architect who understands the requirements of ResCode and can provide some advice.

    Once you have a set of plans, you should request a pre-application meeting.

    When assessing your plans, we will consider:

    • the size of your development
    • how it fits in to the neighbourhood (or, if in a zone for increased density development, whether it makes a positive contribution to the area)
    • the impact it has on the rest of the neighbourhood
    • what car parking is needed
    • the features of the site.

    You can use the following checklists when designing your development:

    We are committed to creating a sustainable city. We want all developers in Merri-bek to meet environmental standards. You can use the sustainable design assessment to make sure your development meets these.

    If you are a developer or owner builder there are also important Commonwealth telecommunications rules you need to comply with.  For more information visit

  • If you are dividing land or a building into two separate lots, this is called subdivision. Subdivision requires a planning permit.

    If you are subdividing your backyard or a vacant lot of land, we recommend that you submit a planning permit application for a multi-use development before you submit one for subdivision. This will make your subdivision application simpler.

    As well as our planning process requirements, to subdivide you will need:

    For more information, see our Subdivision Planning Permit application guide (PDF 143Kb); or Subdivision Planning Permit application guide (DOC 334Kb).

  • If there is a heritage overlay on the property, you must get a planning permit for all external changes. This includes if you want to build a front fence or install solar panels and other services. It may also include if you want to paint your property or remove or prune trees. 

    You will need a planning permit for whole or partial demolition of any building or structure.

    Guidelines for heritage areas

    We have the following guidelines to assist in altering or changing houses in heritage areas:

    Heritage Victoria has information about heritage places and what heritage listing means for landowners.

    Protection of heritage places

    Local heritage places are protected in the Merri-bek Planning Scheme through heritage overlays, which require a planning permit to alter a heritage place.

    A heritage overlay conserves and enhances heritage. An overlay shows how your land can be used and developed. All heritage overlays are recorded in the Merri-bek Planning Scheme. Importantly, the heritage overlay does not stop development, but it helps ensure that any new works don't affect the heritage significance of the place. Heritage sites are protected in one of two ways:

    1. Heritage overlays applied to an individual site, building or object

    Individual heritage overlays can have controls that require you to get a planning permit to paint a building, make changes inside a building, and remove, destroy or prune a tree on the site. A place with its own heritage overlay is an important heritage site. Examples in Merri-bek are the Pentridge Prison Complex, Coburg; Wiseman House, Glenroy; and Hoffman’s Brick and Pottery Works, Brunswick.

    2. Heritage overlay applied to a broader area

    Most heritage sites do not have their own individual heritage overlay. Instead they are identified and protected within a heritage overlay control that applies over a wider area, which may include all the houses in a street or group of streets. This is called a heritage precinct overlay.

    A heritage precinct overlay can include places with no heritage value. These places have a heritage overlay so that new development does not have a negative impact on the heritage significance of the whole area. Examples of some heritage precincts in Merri-bek are Barkly Street, Brunswick East; Newlands Estate Precinct, Coburg; and Turner Street Precinct, Pascoe Vale.

    You can find a list of all individually listed heritage sites and all properties in a heritage precinct overlay at the Moreland Planning Scheme Online. You can also check the Victorian Heritage Database if your property is in a heritage overlay and you want to know more.

  • An Erosion Management Overlay (EMO) applies when properties have been identified by geotechnical experts as being at risk of erosion, landslip or other land degradation processes if inappropriate development occurs.

    A property needs a planning permit if it has an EMO. A condition of the permit will state that you must get geotechnical advice about the design of the building.

    The Geotechnical Declaration and Certification form must be completed by a qualified geotechnical engineer and submitted to us before any works start at the property.

    For more information on EMOs, see the: 

    We also have a range of Planning Scheme maps and geotechnical reports available. Contact us to get copies of these.

  • If you are running a business from home, you might need to get a planning permit.

    You will need to apply for a planning permit for a home-based business if:

    • there are more than 2 people who do not live in the home working at the business at the same time
    • the total floor area used for the business is more than 200 square metres, or more than one-third of the whole house
    • more than one commercial vehicle is present on site.

    For more information about home-based businesses, please see Clause 52.11 of the Merri-bek Planning Scheme or call us on 9240 1111.

    Other requirements for permits for businesses at home

    There may also be other requirements that you will need to meet if you want to run a business from home. These include requirements for running a home-based food business. Business Approvals Merri-bek can help answer questions about opening a new business.

    If you would like written advice regarding a home-based business you will need to apply online for a planning property enquiry under the section on planning meetings and enquiries.

How to start your planning permit process

If you have read the above and believe you need a planning permit, visit our Planning application process overview page to get started.

Merri-bek Planning Scheme

Each Council in Victoria has its own planning scheme. See information on the Merri-bek Planning Scheme.