First introduced in September 2014, there is now a presumption of reimbursement of fees if a council does not make a decision on a planning application within the prescribed statutory timeframe and the applicant lodges an appeal against this failure. In this case, the applicant is entitled to have their VCAT application fee reimbursed by council.
This entitlement does not apply if a responsible authority satisfies the Tribunal that there was reasonable justification to fail to grant the permit, having regard to the nature and complexity of the application, the conduct of the permit applicant or the existence of other matters beyond the reasonable control of the responsible authority.
At a time when VCAT fees have been substantially increased, the ability to gain some return on a protracted and costly process is positive. The hope is that by providing a monetary incentive, the responsible authority will be more compelled to make a decision within the prescribed time. One downside to this is that some Councils may use this as a reason to invest less time in dealing with applicants and instead issue a more timely refusal. We have already experienced this shift in position.
Despite the above point, this increased level of accountability is a positive step and will assist in streamlining the approval process.
Should you have any questions in relation to the above matter, or any other item, please call us on 03 9596 9000.