Places of heritage significance to a local area can be protected by a Heritage Overlay.

Heritage Overlays are part of local council planning schemes and include places of local significance as well as places of state significance included in the Victorian Heritage Register

Councils are responsible for issuing planning permits for the use and development of local heritage places under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Heritage Victoria issues permits for places listed on the Victorian Heritage Register under the Heritage Act 1995.

The Commonwealth Department of the Environment is responsible for heritage places of National and International significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.

If you have questions about a Heritage Overlay, contact your council’s planning department.

Identify

Most local heritage places are identified through a municipal heritage study, carried out by a heritage consultant. Usually the community and local historical societies are invited to nominate places of potential heritage significance. These places are then assessed to determine whether the place is significant and warrants state or local heritage protection.

Assess

Heritage assessments are carried out by qualified and experienced professionals.

Assessment reports usually include a history and description of the place, its condition and integrity, and a Statement of Significance. The Statement of Significance generally identifies what is important, why it is important and how it is significant.

Role of Local Councils

Your council records and protects places of value to the local community. Heritage places important to a local community are identified within the local planning scheme and protected through a Heritage Overlay.

Precincts

Within a heritage area - or precinct – your council’s goal is to protect elements that add to the area's significance. Not every building or landscape element will be significant.

You can often remove, alter or develop non-contributory elements or sites. It's important that any development happens in a manner appropriate to the significance, character and appearance of the heritage area.

Restoration

The Heritage Overlay can’t make you (or the owner) restore or return your property to its original appearance. Some councils offer grants or loans for restoration works; contact your council to find out about incentive programs or see if you qualify for our Living Heritage program.

Demolition

If your heritage place is significant or if it contributes to the significance of an area your council may refuse to grant a permit for demolition.

If the council issues a Notice of Refusal to grant a permit you can have the decision reviewed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Make changes without a planning permit

You don’t need a planning permit under the Heritage Overlay for routine maintenance and repairs as long as they don’t change the appearance of the heritage place.

If the repairs or maintenance involve replacing like with like a planning permit might not be required, check with your council’s planning department You need a permit to carry out works, repairs and maintenance that change the appearance of a heritage place or aren’t undertaken to the same details, specifications and materials.  

See planning permits for more information.

Local heritage places are listed in a schedule to the Heritage Overlay in the planning scheme (explanation of planning scheme structure). Places listed in the schedule to the heritage overlay are also shown on the planning scheme map.

Under the Heritage Overlay, a planning permit is required from the council to:

  • subdivide land
  • demolish or remove a building (including part of a building)
  • construct a building (including part of a building or a fence)
  • externally alter a building
  • construct or carry out works
  • construct or display a sign
  • externally paint an unpainted surface
  • externally paint a building if the painting constitutes an advertisement.

Check the schedule to find out if other controls apply to your property; sometimes external paint controls, internal alteration controls and control over trees also apply.

The Heritage Overlay doesn’t always cover your whole property. Look at the planning scheme maps to find out where the overlay applies. We also recommend that property owners and developers discuss proposals with council before committing to a project.

Some permits can be granted through the simpler VicSmart process

The guidelines are designed to help local government planners, heritage advisors and councillors assessing planning permit applications under the Heritage Overlay, owners of Heritage Places and anyone preparing a planning permit application.

If your council has developed their own local heritage policies or guidelines, follow the council guidelines. Our guidelines can provide an additional resource, and assist councils that haven’t develop local policies or guidelines, or are reviewing those that currently exist.

As long as heritage buildings are structurally sound, water tight, secure and well maintained, there shouldn’t be any difficulty insuring heritage properties. Premiums should not be any higher than for an unlisted property. Speak to your insurer to confirm and for more information.

Some Aboriginal heritage places are included in Heritage Overlay controls but broad protection of Aboriginal heritage is provided under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

Don’t rely on the Heritage Overlay for information about places of Aboriginal heritage value, see Aboriginal Victoria.

More information

Aboriginal Victoria information about Aboriginal heritage places

Your council information about local heritage studies, heritage listings, and planning scheme amendments which apply Heritage Overlay controls to significant properties

Heritage advisor many Victorian councils operate free Heritage Advisory Services that provide heritage assistance to property owners, check with your council’s planning department

Planning Schemes Online view your planning scheme and find out if a Heritage Overlay applies

Planning Maps Online download a free Planning Property Report including Planning Zones and Overlays with maps.

Practice note

The Heritage Overly Practice Note helps local councils use and apply the Heritage Overlay, including advice on what places should be included in the heritage overlay, what criteria to use to assess significance, writing statements of significance and drafting the schedule:

Applying the Heritage Overlay Practice Note (PDF, 346.5 KB)