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Structure plans define a council’s preferred direction of future growth within an activity centre and articulate how it will be managed.

While government policy sets out the basic principles for activity centres, there is no 'one size fits all' solution. Each area is unique and local governments are encouraged to work with their communities to determine exactly how their activity centre should grow, taking into account regional population trends and economic growth.

Structure plans give effect to the policies and objectives set out for activity centres in state policy and provide for changing community needs.

They guide the major changes to land use, built form and public spaces that together can achieve economic, social and environmental objectives for the centre.

To improve development within centres, state policy encourages local governments to review the purpose and function of individual centres, and revise local planning policies through structure planning for each of their activity centres.

Structure planning can help local government to:

  • provide greater certainty to the local community and investors about its expectations for the future form of development in its activity centres
  • manage change to ensure activity centres are attractive, vibrant areas to live, work and shop
  • ensure economic and social vitality of the area
  • make best use of council resources and focus council investment to best serve the community.

A range of tools have been developed to assist local governments planning for activity centres.

The Activity Centres Toolkit has been prepared to assist local government, business associations, property owners and other government agencies implement activity centre policy and structure planning initiatives.

The toolkit outlines ways to improve activity centres and attract investment for development, such as becoming development-ready and moving from planning to implementation. It also includes case studies that showcase best-practice approaches undertaken by a range of councils.

Following consultation with local governments and key stakeholders, a revised practice note was released in 2015. Minor revisions were also made in September 2018 following completion of the Activity Centre Pilot Program.

This practice note provides guidance to councils on the activity centre structure planning process. It covers the reasons for structure planning in activity centres, the policy context, and possible inputs and outputs of the process.

While this advice is designed specifically for metropolitan and major activity centres, the structure planning process can be tailored to all types of centres.

The department prepared the model structure plan as a template to help councils deliver developments and improvements in activity centres. The template provides basic structure plan elements based on a fictitious place – ‘Ruby Town’. It uses a 20-30 page format, together with sample maps.

The model structure plan is informed by the revised Planning Practice Note 58: Structure planning for activity centres

Comprehensive background information is required to support a structure plan. 'The Ruby Town background report outline' provides a sample table of contents of the issues and topics which should be addressed.

Structure plans may propose built form outcomes including mandatory and discretionary building heights and setbacks.

Height and setback controls can be appropriate so long as they are aimed at facilitating good design outcomes. This practice note provides guidance on the department's preferred approach to the application of height and setback controls for activity centres.

Following the Activity Centre Pilot Program, this practice note has been revised to clearly outline the level of strategic work councils should undertake to support the applications of mandatory building height controls at activity centres.

Place management is a way of managing the wide range of issues, challenges and opportunities that face an activity centre or town centre every day.

State policy encourages mixed-used development, activity and living in designated activity centres around key transport and access nodes. These areas have a range of stakeholders, residents and community who are affected by the many policies, plans and procedures being implemented.

Place management is important in providing a holistic and coordinated approach to the improvement of a place through an integrated approach to implementation and management.

A place management information booklet has been developed to assist current and new Place Managers, local government, business associations, property owners and other government agencies to understand and appreciate place management and how it can facilitate the development of vibrant activity centres and town centres.

Further information about current place management and place manager resources are available by contacting the LGPro Activity Centres and Place Managers Special Interest Group.

The Urban Design Guidelines for Victoria have been developed to support state agencies, local councils, and the development sector to deliver liveable, safe places.

The guidelines provide advice on:

  • the design of public spaces
  • building design in relation to a building’s interface with public spaces, and
  • the layout of cities, towns and neighbourhoods.

The Urban Design Guidelines for Victoria are a reference document in all planning schemes through the State Planning Policy Framework.

Page last updated: 20/07/23