Town planning at a local level, contrary to large-scale urban developments, often revolves around simpler yet crucial projects. Whether it’s about getting permits for dual occupancy, setting up new apartments, or launching a new business, effective communication plays a pivotal role in streamlining these processes and avoiding disputes. In this blog, we’ll explore how clear communication and early neighbour involvement are key to successful town planning in smaller communities.

Understanding the Local Town Planning Landscape

Town planning in our community might not involve massive subdivisions or overhead rail lines, but it does encompass critical developments like designing dual occupancies or new business establishments. The process typically involves working closely with designers to create a plan and then seeking approval from the Council.

The Importance of Neighbour Involvement

One of the best strategies to avoid disputes in town planning is early and open communication with neighbours. Informing neighbours about proposed developments before they are advertised by the Council is crucial. This proactive approach involves:

Sharing Plans with Neighbors

Giving neighbours a copy of the plans and inviting their feedback can often preempt objections and misunderstandings.

Maintaining Ongoing Dialogue

Keeping neighbours informed and involved throughout the planning process helps in addressing their concerns early on.

Consultative Meetings: A Platform for Negotiation

Often, Councils may call for consultative meetings between objectors and developers. These meetings offer a platform for both parties to discuss their concerns and seek a middle ground. Such negotiations can play a vital role in modifying plans in a way that is acceptable to all stakeholders.

Mediation at VCAT

In cases where an agreement isn’t reached, and the matter escalates to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), there is still an opportunity for negotiation. Mediation sessions at VCAT offer a chance for both parties to come together and find a mutually agreeable solution, even at this advanced stage of the dispute.

Clear and Transparent Communication: The Cornerstone of Effective Town Planning

The essence of smooth town planning lies in clear and transparent communication. It’s about breaking down complex jargon into simple, understandable language. This clarity in communication acts as a roadmap, guiding all involved parties through the planning process without confusion. The key elements include:

  • Using straightforward language to ensure that information is easily comprehensible by property owners, developers, and the wider community.
  • Being open and honest about the planning process, ensuring that everyone is aware of what is happening and why.


Effective town planning in local communities hinges on straightforward, transparent communication and early engagement with neighbours. By involving neighbours from the outset, addressing their concerns, and maintaining a clear dialogue, planners can navigate the complexities of local development smoothly. Consultative meetings and mediation at VCAT further provide opportunities for resolving disputes amicably.

As town planners, our goal is to foster a collaborative process that not only meets regulatory requirements but also harmonises with the aspirations and needs of the community. Through these practical insights, town planning becomes not just a regulatory process but a community-building endeavour.