Signs and planning permits

On this page, you will find information regarding signs, where a planning permit is required.

You can use our planning process glossary to help explain any technical terms included on this page.

On this page:

When a planning permit is required for a sign 

There are many different types of signs which can be used for a variety of purposes. This can include signs to advertise business names, short term special events and third-party commercial advertising. 

To erect a sign may require planning approval from your local council.

Clause 52.05 of the Planning Scheme sets out the different planning permit requirements for signs.

These requirements seek to ensure that proposed signs:

  • are compatible with the amenity and visual appearance of an area
  • don’t cause loss of amenity or negatively affect the natural or built environment
  • don’t impact the safety, appearance or efficiency of a road.  

Sign types are defined under clause 73 of the Victoria Planning Provisions.

When the Department of Transport becomes involved

If you are seeking a planning permit for an animated or electronic sign, within 60m of a freeway or arterial road, the planning permit application will be referred to the Department of Transport for assessment. This is done under Clause 52.05 of the Victoria Planning Provisions.

The Department of Transport is required to consider every application and advise the council that either the application:

  • is supported
  • is supported, subject to specific conditions being met 
  • is objected to by the Department of Transport.

If the Department of Transport objects to the referred application, the council must refuse the application for the planning permit.

In some instances, a local council may give the Department of Transport notice of an application if they believe a sign may impact land managed or owned by the Department of Transport. The opinion of the Department of Transport on an application sent in this way is not binding on council but may be considered. 

Why the Department of Transport becomes involved

The Department of Transport has an obligation under the Transport Integration Act 2010 to ensure the transport network is efficient and safe for all road users.

Road safety aspects include both the physical impacts resulting from a sign and the potential for distraction caused by the sign.

Driver distraction has been identified as a safety hazard for road users, so it’s important to ensure that any potentially distracting material, such as advertising signs are placed in an appropriate location and subject to appropriate conditions. 

What the Department of Transport takes into consideration

All planning permit applications are individually assessed on their merits, taking into account what is proposed, local context and the surrounding road/transport network.

In its assessment, the Department of Transport will consider various potential impacts including:

Any other aspects considered will depend on the individual application. 

Contesting a decision

If you are unhappy with a referral response from the Department of Transport, it’s recommended that you first discuss the response with the relevant the Department of Transport officer (listed on the referral response).

Some types of signs do not require planning permission. It’s recommended that you contact your local council to discuss any proposal prior to the lodgement of a planning permit application.

Where a sign does not require planning permission, it may still need consent under the Road Management Act 2004. This may include:

  • temporary community messaging signs
  • gateway signs 
  • tourist signs
  • variable message signs. 

In addition, any sign placed within the road reserve of the Department of Transport’s controlled road, will require approval from the Department of Transport.

Potentially unsafe signs

If you see a sign that you believe is a safety hazard, it is recommended that you contact your local council in writing and forward a copy of this information to the Department of Transport.

You may be concerned about the sign for a physical reason or due to its distracting nature.

If a sign has been illegally installed, or is in breach of its planning permit conditions, your local council or the Department of Transport can take enforcement proceeding through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.