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What is a panel?

A panel is appointed by the Minister for Planning to hear submissions about amendments to planning schemes, and to make recommendations or provide advice about if the amendment should proceed.

It will have one or more members, depending on the issues involved.

What does a panel do?

The basic role of a panel is to:

  • give submitters an opportunity to be heard in an informal, non-judicial manner
  • give expert advice to the planning authority – usually the local council – or the minister about an amendment and about submissions referred to it.

A panel is not a court and is not bound by legal rules of evidence.

A panel may inquire into all aspects of the amendment and submissions.

Find out how to make a submission.

Our members deal with different types of panels and committees appointed to consider and advise on planning proposals and policies. These include:

Unless specified in the terms of reference, advisory committee hearings and environment effects inquiries are generally undertaken in the same way as a panel hearing.

Read more about committees and inquiries.

After a panel is appointed

Typically, the following will happen after a panel is appointed:

  • Each submitter receives a letter that explains the process, invites them to participate in the hearing process, and provides indicative dates for the hearing.
  • Within 2 - 3 weeks of its appointment, the panel conducts a directions hearing to decide the hearing process, consider and confirm dates, venue/format, and answer questions. Hearing dates are often pre-set before the amendment is exhibited.
  • Sometimes a directions hearing is not needed but written directions may be issued. The panel will advise submitters if this is the case.
  • The panel issues a directions letter to each party that includes procedural directions including when expert evidence should be provided and a timetable confirming when each party will appear.
  • The panel conducts a hearing about four to six weeks after the directions hearing.

Find out more about how hearings work.

The panel prepares its report after the hearing is completed. This includes any supplementary submissions allowed or requested by the panel. It is generally lodged with the planning authority in the following prescribed timeframes:

  • 20 business days for a panel with one member
  • 30 business days for a panel with 2 members
  • 40 business days for a panel of 3 or more members.

Request to appear before a panel

If you wish to appear before the panel to present a submission, you must complete an online request to be heard by the date specified in the letter you receive.

The panel needs to receive the requests by the specified date so that it can review them and prepare before the directions hearing.

If you do not lodge the request to be heard by the required date, or at the directions hearing, it will be assumed you do not wish to appear. You are welcome to attend and observe any part of the hearing as it is open to the public.

Contacting the panel

You can only contact the panel in the public forum of a hearing or in writing. You cannot contact panel members by any direct means to discuss matters before the panel.

If an issue or concern arises, send a letter or email to the panel chair through the panel coordinator. A response will be provided to you through a Planning Panels Victoria officer or at the hearing. The panel may send copies of your letter to other submitters.

Some large panels have a project officer assigned to them – you can directly contact that nominated person for assistance. Contact details are included in the letter that is sent to you following the directions hearing.

Preparing for the hearing

Read more about how hearings work.

Attending the hearing

You do not have to attend the entire hearing. You can attend at any time to observe the proceedings and may access documents presented at the hearing.

If you are a party, the panel will ask you to be present at least 15 minutes before your scheduled commencement time.

After the hearing

The panel will review all the submissions and information presented at the hearing and prepare its report.

The panel report:

  • documents issues raised in submissions which responded to the amendment’s public exhibition
  • considers all submissions and information received to independently determine its findings
  • generally recommends changes to the amendment in response to its findings.

The panel report will be forwarded to the planning authority when completed and must be released to the public after 10 business days. The planning authority may release the report earlier if it chooses.

The panel report provides advice and recommendations. The planning authority and the minister are not bound by the panel’s recommendations.

If the council does not adopt a panel recommendation, it must give reasons as to why.

Once available to the public, the panel report is uploaded to Australasian Legal Information Institute and Planning Scheme Amendments where it remains permanently available.

If a planning authority does not make a decision

If the planning authority has not adopted the amendment or been granted an extension of time by the minister, the amendment will lapse two years after the public notice date published in the Government Gazette.

Hearing costs

The planning authority meets the panel's fees. The fees are prescribed by us and relate to the full panel process including the hearing, site visits and report writing.

Submitters do not pay a fee to be heard by the panel or for the submission to be considered.

The award of costs against a party is rare in panel proceedings.

Costs when a hearing is adjourned

Section 165 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 provides for the adjournment of hearings as follows:

"A Panel may from time to time adjourn a Hearing to any times and places and for any purposes it thinks necessary and on any terms as to costs or otherwise which it thinks just in the circumstances."

The need for an adjournment may arise during the hearing for a variety of reasons. It may occur if a significant change is proposed to an amendment, or a proposal or significant new evidence is introduced, and the involved parties have not been previously informed.

If an adjournment is necessary, the panel may consider if costs should be awarded. Costs are usually only awarded to a party if the costs claimed would not otherwise have been incurred and they are the direct result of another party's actions.

If costs are requested or the panel itself considers an award of costs is appropriate, parties determined by the panel will be given an opportunity to be heard before any direction is made.

Page last updated: 13/10/22