Particularly for commercial clients, a Building’s Use can be confusing.  You find the perfect site or building to operate your new venture from, only to realise that it has been permitted for a use that is not what you had in mind.

Planning Use

Here lies the confusion for many.  Your site or building is zoned for planning purposes.  Within that zoning there are allowable uses where a planning permit is required, or not. Then there are uses that are not permitted at all.  To illustrate the process, take a common example where a prospective tenant, ‘Deborah’, is looking to lease a new space in an industrial park.  Deborah wants to open up a personal training gym.  The space is well suited to the business’s needs, a great open space with a little kitchenette, and toilet facilities.   Deborah checks with council and learns that her business is permitted use and is classified as a ‘Leisure Recreation Facility’.  Under this use however a planning permit is required.

Why is a Planning Permit Required for a Permitted Use?

In this example, the building that Deborah wants to lease has been permitted as a ‘Warehouse’.  All planning considerations, such as parking, waste, signage, noise, and traffic have been made with the assumption that the building will be used as a warehouse.  A personal gym or leisure recreation facility will have different demands placed on the building’s amenities, particularly parking.  The hours of operation will be different which will also affect the neighbouring properties, with regards to noise, traffic and the like.

How long will a Planning Permit Take?

The state government, in recognition that the planning system was frustrating the commercial sector (and others), introduced the Vic Smart Process.  Vic Smart aims to streamline the planning process for certain classes of applications.  Key features include:

  • a 10 day permit process
  • applications are not advertised
  • information to be submitted with an application and what council can consider is pre-set
  • the Chief Executive Officer of the council or delegate decides the application.

Since its introduction Vic Smart has been further refined with four amendments, in March 2017, July 2017, January 2018, and Januray 2108.  To qualify for Vic Smart, the proposal must be one of the stated application types, meet all the criteria and be located in the specified zone or overlay.

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Fortunately for ‘Deborah’, her proposal qualified as a Vic Smart application type and her permit was granted 2 weeks later.

Why do I need a Building Permit for a Change of Use?

Another frustration for people is understanding why an allowable use needs a Building Permit.  A building permit will assess the works against the requirements of the Building Code (NCC2019).  In our example, the Warehouse is a Class 8, under the BCA, but Deborah’s gym is a Class 9b.  A building’s use under the Code will assess the fire resistance & equipment, access and egress, amenities and energy efficiency of the building.   Typically, a change of use permit will affect the number of toilets provided, the accessibility of the building, and the fire resistance.


Starting a new business can be a stressful time.  Let DPD help you navigate through the permit process to get your business up and running.

We can Design Plan & Document your dream business.