Starting a new business - are permits required?

Do you have a new business venture idea and are you thinking of starting a business?

New business owners/operators in rural and regional areas and existing rural residents and commercial producers all have an equal right to live, work and enjoy rural Victoria, but equally, everybody needs to understand the rules governing land use in rural areas, and be prepared for the reality of agricultural and commercial pursuits.

With these thoughts in mind you can now start looking for that ideal property in the country or in a regional town, but there are some issues that you need to consider, such as:

  • Will your business require your clients to travel to your place of business?
  • Will your business require the delivery of goods to your place of business?
  • Will your business manufacture or assemble products that will have to be picked up and delivered to other locations?
  • Has the property/building been used for a similar purpose for the last two (2) years?
  • Will your business employ staff?
  • Will your business prepare food or involve beautician or hair-cutting practices?

Answers to these questions and others will determine whether you require a Planning Permit from Loddon Shire Council and/or a Building Permit and or a permit from Council's Public Health Officer

Investing time and focus into proper planning is the key to turning your dreams into reality. Operating a small business is not just about working for yourself or working from home, it's also about having the necessary management skills, industry expertise, technical skills, finance and of course a long-term vision to grow and succeed. 

It’s important to consider whether you really understand what's involved and whether you're suited to business and self-employment.


Change of use - Building permit requirements

Regulation of the Building Regulations 2018 provides that  a person must not change the use of a building or place, unless a building permit and occupancy permit has been obtained and the building or place complies with the requirements of the Regulations applicable to the new use.

For example, an old unused shop may become available in a regional town and a person decides that it would be an ideal property/building to commence a business manufacturing small furniture items. Therefore, that person would have to apply for a building permit to change the use from a Class 6: Retail shop to a Class 8: Buildings for production or assembly of goods. You might also require a Planning Permit for your proposed business.

Section 40 of the Building Act 1993 provides that a person must not occupy a building in contravention of the current occupancy permit / permits issued for the building.

Another example is, a dwelling becomes vacant in the main street of a regional town and a person decides that it would be the ideal location to start up an accountancy business for the area. Again that person would have to apply for a Building permit to change the use of the building from a Class 1: Dwelling to a Class 5: Office. Matters to be considered in this example are that the existing building use as a dwelling does not require suitable access or facilities for persons with disabilities, and does not require essential safety measures installed in the building, and different requirements for fire separation of walls including windows located close to the property boundaries.

Essential safety measures

Essential Safety measures are central to ensuring a safe and healthy built environment. Their maintenance is vital for the life, safety and health of occupants over a building’s lifetime.

The installation and maintenance of essential safety measures applies to Class 1b, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 buildings as defined in the National Construction Code, (NCC), Building Code of Australia (BCA). See link for definition.

 An essential safety measure is defined under the Building Regulations 2018 (the Regs) as an item listed in Victorian Building Authority Practice Note No 23/2018. This may include, (but not limited too) safety systems such as:

  • Exit doors
  • Emergency lighting
  • Exit signs
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Path of travel to exits
  • Emergency power supply
  • Fire hydrants
  • Smoke alarms
  • Portable fire extinguishers
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Fire rated materials.

The Building Regulations 2018, require the owner to ensure that all installed Safety Measures are inspected on a regular basis, maintained to the level  at which they were installed or to the level specified by the Relevant Building Surveyor and to provide an annual essential safety measures statement.

The maintenance of essential safety measures involves:

  • Ensuring the service is maintained at a level of performance specified by the relevant building surveyor (RBS), usually to the BCA or an Australian Standard
  • Periodical inspections and checks in accordance with an Australian Standard or other specified method
  • Maintaining a record of the maintenance inspections and checks in the form of an annual “Essential Safety Measures” report.

Access to buildings for persons with disabilities

The Australian Government's Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) has been in effect since March 1993. The DDA prohibits discrimination against people with disability or their associates in a range of areas including transport, education, employment, accommodation and premises used by the public.

The Access to Premises-Buildings Standards 2010 aims to achieve better access to a wider range of public buildings. Improving building access gives more people more opportunity to access employment, education and services, and to connect with the broader community.

The requirements of the National Construction Code (NCC) are triggered when someone makes an application for building or construction approval for either a new building, undertake new building work or to change the use of an existing building such as an upgrade, extension or renovation.

For existing buildings, the NCC will apply to the work that is covered by the building permit.

The NCC sets out how to provide safe, equitable and dignified access to buildings.

  • Good design is not just about providing some access. It is about ensuring, as far as possible, that people with disability can use buildings independently and with dignity.
  • Example, accessible entry to a new building must be the principle pedestrian entrance and not one around the back of the building.