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3.1 How policy works

The PPF is the policy content of a planning scheme and provides a context for spatial planning and decision making by planning and responsible authorities.

The PPF comprises clauses 10 to 19 of the planning scheme and is a single integrated policy source that includes state content in the form of state and regional planning policy and local content in the form of local planning policy.

State planning policy

State planning policy

Statewide: Policies of state significance that apply in all planning schemes in Victoria

Regional: Policies of state significance that apply to allied planning schemes based on geographic and thematic policy groupings.

Local planning policy: Policies of local significance that apply in an individual planning scheme.

The policy content in the PPF is complemented by the MPS. The MPS outlines the planning outcomes the municipality seeks to achieve that will be implemented by the policies and requirements of the planning scheme.

The MPS sits outside the PPF at Clause 02 of the planning scheme.The PPF and the MPS together form the strategic foundation of the scheme.

A planning authority must take into account the MPS and the PPF when preparing an amendment to a planning scheme. A responsible authority must also take into account and give effect to the MPS and the PPF when it makes a decision.

A planning policy applies to all land in the planning scheme unless the policy specifies otherwise.

A planning policy may include policy guidelines. Policy guidelines indicate how an objective can be met and how a strategy can be implemented. A responsible authority must take a relevant policy guideline into account when it makes a decision, but is not required give effect to it. If the responsible authority is satisfied that an alternative approach meets the policy objective, the alternative may be considered.

A planning policy may include reference to a policy document. A policy document may be an incorporated, background or other document such as an Act.

3.2 How a zone works

Zones are the primary tool for guiding the fair and orderly use and development of land. A zone sets expectations about what land use and development activity is or may be acceptable. Each zone broadly deals with a particular predominant land use theme, such as residential, commercial, industrial or public land uses.

Zones are applied spatially and all land must be included in a zone, except Commonwealth land which is not covered by a planning scheme. The zone selected for any land is determined by the historic land use and the planning strategies set out in the planning scheme.

Each zone contains purposes that describe the planning outcome sought by the zone. These purposes are achieved through the application of the controls on use and development in the zone.

The use of land is controlled by the ‘Table of uses’ in the zone. This table places particular land uses in one of three categories:

Section 1 – Permit not required
Section 2 – Permit required
Section 3 – Prohibited

The table may include a condition next to a land use that must be met. If the condition is not met, a more restrictive land use category will apply to the use.

Zones also controls development by requiring a planning permit for specified types of development. Some zones seek to promote a specific outcome by exempting a preferred form of development from the need for a permit. Some zones may include mandatory requirements, such as a maximum building height.

A zone may require certain information to be provided with a particular type of planning permit application.

Where a permit is required, the zone may exempt certain types of application from the notice and review requirements of the Act.

Zones include decision guidelines that apply generally or to a specific type of application. In addition to the decision guidelines of clause 65 of the planning scheme, these decision guidelines must be taken into account by the responsible authority when it makes a decision about the application.

Each zone also specifies the sign category that applies to the land.

Some zones allow the planning authority to set specific objectives for the zone through a statement in a schedule to the zone. These objectives may be general or may relate to a specific matter, such as building design.

A zone may have a schedule that enables a planning authority to specify certain use and development controls or standards to achieve local planning objectives.

Placing a zone boundary

A zone boundary should align with title boundaries or other clearly defined feature such as a road centreline or watercourse.

The planning scheme does not generally contain special provisions for land in more than one zone. The exception being clause 64.03 that deals with the subdivision of land in more than one zone. If land is in more than one zone, the provisions of each zone apply to that part of the land included in the zone.

3.3 How an overlay works

An overlay is a complementary planning control to the zone. Unlike zones, that deal primarily with the broader aspects of the use and development of land, an overlay generally seeks to control a specific aspect of the development of land.

Overlays control a broad range of development matters such as the protection of vegetation or heritage values, the design of built form or mitigating flood risk. Some overlays can also specify requirements for the use of land. The application of an overlay may reflect a policy objective in the scheme or a condition of the land.

While a parcel of land will always be included in a zone, it will only be affected by an overlay where a specific development outcome is sought for that land. Land can be subject to more than one overlay.

Each overlay contains purposes that specify the planning outcome sought by the overlay. These purposes are achieved through the application of the controls in the overlay.

An overlay may also contain application requirements, notice and review exemptions and decision guidelines.

An overlay may include a schedule that enables more specific local objectives, purposes or requirements for specified land. The schedule may also specify development that requires planning permission, is exempt from the permit requirements or is prohibited. Schedules must meet the requirements of the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes.

An overlay may require permission for or prohibit development that is allowed by the zone. Neither control takes precedence over the other and both must be satisfied before a development can be carried out.

3.4 How a particular provision works

Particular provisions are planning controls that apply only to certain uses and development or to particular aspects of certain uses and development.

Particular provisions operate differently to zones and overlays in that they are issue-based, rather than land-based controls. They apply to a use or development irrespective of the zone or overlay that applies to the land.

The particular provisions apply consistently across the state; however, some particular provisions allow a planning authority to include local content through a schedule.

The particular provisions may include permit requirements, permit exemptions, prohibitions or development standards.

A particular provision also sets out the information requirements and decision guidelines for all classes of VicSmart applications.

Unless specified otherwise, the particular provisions apply in addition to the requirements of a zone or overlay.

3.5 How the general provisions work

The general provisions set out standard provisions about matters that benefit from a consistent treatment across all land. The general provisions include:

  • General exemptions from planning control for a specified range of classes of use and development.
  • Provisions about dealing with existing uses.
  • Decision guidelines that apply to all applications.
  • Requirements about referral and notice of applications and applications under section 96 of the Act.

Some general provisions have schedules for local requirements.

3.6 How the operational provisions work

The operational provisions set out provisions for the operation, administration and enforcement of the planning scheme. They include matters such as:

  • The operation of the MPS, the PPF, zones, overlays, particular provisions and VicSmart applications.
  • The commencement and application of the scheme, the effect of the scheme, who is the responsible authority for the scheme and what the scheme consists of.
  • The meaning of words, including general terms, sign terms and land use terms.
  • The strategic implementation of zones, overlays and particular provisions in relation to the PPF.
  • The incorporated documents and background documents related to the scheme.

Some operational provisions have schedules that require information specific to the scheme to be included, such as when the scheme commenced.

3.7 How the land use terms work

Clause 73 sets out a list of terms that may be used to characterise a land use.

A land use term has the meaning set out next to it in the table.

Where a land use term does not have a defined meaning, it has its ordinary meaning. The Macquarie Dictionary is the preferred source to determine the ordinary meaning of undefined planning terms.

Terms may be included (or ‘nested’) within other terms, or may themselves include other terms. The relationship of how terms are nested is described visually in the nesting diagrams at Clause 73.04.

A term describing a use of land must not be characterised as a separate use of land where the term is commonly or obviously included in one or more of the terms in the table.


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Page last updated: 17/04/24