Planning Services Refund Policy
Yarra Ranges Council receives large volumes of planning applications with associated fees for various statutory and discretionary planning related functions. On occasions these applications and discretionary functions are withdrawn, refused or lapse and the applicant requests the return of fees paid.
In some circumstances, applicants will request a reduction or waiver of planning application fees. All planning applications fees are set under the Planning and Environment Act (fee regulation). The fees set are in principle to pay the local government to decide on a planning application or other statutory requests able to be made under the Act.
Discretionary services are generally those that have no statutory related function and are otherwise a council provided service. For Yarra Ranges Council, this will generally involve requests for written planning advice and copies of plan and permits.
When making a decision on a request for a refund, decision making should be consistent, transparent, equitable and fair and the Planning Services refund policy will guide Planning Services in the appropriate decision.
The policy has been established to:
- Clarify the position on refunds where an application is refused.
- Clarify the position on refunds where an application lapses.
- Facilitate a fair and equitable portion of fees to an applicant where applications are withdrawn.
- Clarify circumstances where fees may be waivered or reduced.
- It is a policy position that where an application is refused, no refund will be provided to an applicant. Justification: A refusal is still a decision on an application. The fee to reach that decision must have been paid under the provisions of the Planning and Environment Act which is a fee paid to the local government in order to assess, decide and issue a decision on each and every planning application.
- It is a policy position that where an application lapses in all circumstances, no refund will be provided to an applicant. Justification: the onus rests with the applicant regarding circumstances surrounding the lapsing of an application. The fee paid to assess the application is set by the Planning and Environment Act and is required to be paid to allow the acceptance of the application for assessment. The council does not hold responsibility for when an application lapses, with or without good will reminders from the council to applicants about upcoming deadlines (lapse dates).
- It is policy that where an application is withdrawn formally or where no permit is required, and a request in writing from the applicant has been made, the applicant may receive a partial refund of fees. Council will at all times retain full discretion about whether to issue a refund and only after a request for refund has been made in writing by the applicant.
In determining a refund, the following methods are applied to all planning applications:
- If the application fee has been received and an application number has been allocated to the proposal - 75% of an application fee excluding GST (if applicable) are refundable.
- If the application fee has been received, the application processed and written correspondence, including a request for further information and internal referrals has been circulated but no formal written decision has been issued - No fees are refundable.
- If an application has been decided (a decision has been co-signed as a minimum) - no refund is payable.
- Where a request for permit is made, and assessed that no permit is required, a refund is payable upon written request, less the current cost of written planning advice.
- Where an EOT to a permit expiry is requested, and found to have been made in error (that is, not required), 75% of application fees excluding GST (if applicable) are refundable.
- Requests for written correspondence are not eligible for a refund in all circumstances.
- Requests to amend or end a Section 173 Agreement, no refunds are applicable in all circumstances.
Note: the applicant or the subject property owner may be given the opportunity to withdraw a planning permit application prior to the application being refused (decided). Under this circumstance, the refund policy for withdrawing an application will apply.
Fee Waiver and reductions
4. A request for a fee waiver or reduction must be requested and decided prior to the lodging of a planning application. Fee reduction may be given for registered not-for-profit organisations or community groups. A not-for-profit organisation must provide evidence of current registration with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission. If agreed between council and the applicant, a fee request letter will be sent for the reduced amount or confirmation of fee waiver.
An application is submitted and no agreement to waiver or reduce the fee has been agreed, then council will, by default, not support a request to reduce or waiver a fee unless in exceptional circumstances to the discretion of the Executive of Planning Services.
Exceptional circumstances are generally those that where council has made a clear error in either making a decision, providing information or where the council has otherwise not performed to a satisfactory standard. This must be clearly evident without significant research and establishment of facts being required. The personal circumstances of an applicant are not an exceptional circumstance.