If you're setting up a new business – or renovating an existing one – you might need planning or building permits for your commercial premises.

You usually need a planning or building permit to:

  • set up a store, food premises or other business
  • change the existing shop front
  • attach signage to the building
  • update the internal fit-out of the premises
  • put outdoor seating or heaters on the footpath.

Speak to your local council

Different councils often have specific requirements, so contact your local council's building or planning department to check what types of permits and approvals you'll need when you want to set up or make fit-out changes to your retail shop, office, commercial or business premises.

Speaking to your council is an important step in the process, even if you've been through it before.

Preliminary discussion with a council’s planning officer can help you avoid both cost and delay and provide you with important information on:

  • whether a permit is required and why
  • whether the application is a VicSmart application
  • the nature and amount of supporting information to submit with an application
  • any state and local planning policies (including the Municipal Strategic Statement) that should be addressed as part of the application
  • any relevant guidelines, requirements, particular provisions or VicSmart provisions that may apply
  • any referral authorities relevant to the application that must be notified.

Most councils will want you speak to them before you make any decisions about your business premises.

Apply for a planning permit

Once you've figured out whether you need a planning permit, you can apply through the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

What you can do before you lease or buy

Before you sign your lease or buy your property:

  • Use DELWP's Planning Maps Online tool to find out which planning zones and overlays apply to the properties you're considering
  • See if your premises has heritage listing on the Victorian Heritage Database. If it does, it may mean extra planning and approvals for modifications
  • Contact a builder or surveyor using the Victorian Building Authority's practitioner search to answer your questions before making too many plans
  • Arrange a pre-application meeting with your council planner to highlight any concerns early. It's also a good idea to talk with potential neighbours about your plans

Making changes to a leased premises

See our guide to setting up your business premises for a detailed list of steps recommended to make changes to your retail or commercial premises.

Find out what business licences you need

Use the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) to work out which licences, registrations and permits you'll need for your business.