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6.1 How to write for a planning scheme

The Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes requires that a planning scheme and planning scheme amendment must be written in plain English.

There are many guides to plain English writing, including the Australian Government’s online Style Manual, which includes information about clear language and writing style.

The advice in this chapter is specific to writing good quality planning provisions in plain English. It includes some quick tips and more specific advice about a range of matters that will be encountered when writing for a planning scheme.

Quick tips for writing for a planning scheme

  • Write positively.
  • Use active voice (‘provide’ not ‘provision of’).
  • Use ‘must’ or ‘will’ rather than ‘shall’ if the action is mandatory.
  • Use ‘may’ or ‘should’ if the action is optional.
  • Keep sentences short. Avoid including too many ideas in a sentence.
  • Stick to simple or common words like ‘show’ not ‘demonstrate’.
  • Keep the use of words consistent, do not change terms for no reason or for variety. Keep the same words for the same idea.
  • The terms ‘responsible authority’ and ‘planning authority’ are not capitalised.
  • Don’t use archaic words like ‘hereto’, ‘whilst’ or ‘notwithstanding’.
  • Don’t use Latin or French words like ‘ultra vires’.
  • Don’t use unnecessary tautology like ‘force and effect’ or ‘terms and conditions’.
  • Avoid cross references to other parts of the scheme.

6.1.1 Make the requirements clear

Use ‘must’ or ‘must not’ if the requirement is mandatory.

A building must be set back at least 3 metres from the front of the property.
The building height must not exceed 21 metres.

Using ‘must’ is not always necessary to communicate clearly, but it has a directness that other forms of expression lack. For example:

Motor vehicles must not be serviced or repaired for gain.
No motor vehicle may be serviced or repaired for gain.

Use ‘may’ to confer a discretion for action. In the following example a permit may be issued but there is no obligation that it must be issued.

A permit may be granted to vary any dimension or requirement of this clause.

Do not use ‘should’ for a mandatory requirement. ‘Should’ can be used in criteria and in expressing non-mandatory requirements in schedules to some overlays, for example the Design and Development Overlay.

Do not use ‘shall’. Use ‘must’ instead.

Using ‘encourage’ and ‘discourage’ are useful in objectives but should not be used in requirements:

A fence at the front of a lot should not exceed 1.2 metres.
A maximum fence height of 1.2 metres will be encouraged at the street frontage.

6.1.2 Make discretion obvious

Make mandatory requirements explicit. Do not assume that a reader will understand what you mean:

The following requirements must be met.
  • Building height must not exceed 21 metres.
  • Filling is not permitted.
The following requirements should be met. A permit may be granted to vary these requirements if the responsible authority considers that the proposal will better meet the objectives of the overlay.
  • Building height should not exceed 21 metres.
  • Filling should not be undertaken.

6.1.3 Take care with definitions

Use words that have been defined in the Act, clause 73 of the planning scheme and the Interpretation of Legislation Act 1984 in strict accordance with their definition. Individual local terms and definitions should be avoided in local provisions.

In situations where a term is not defined in these documents, it will be considered to have its ordinary or common meaning as defined in the Macquarie Dictionary, having regard to general principles of legal or statutory interpretation. Avoid using different terms interchangeably or using more than one term to apply one provision. For example, the following requirement has a number of problems:

The maximum building height in this precinct should not exceed 21 metres (6 storeys), including all roof structures, services, lift overruns and excluding architectural features only.

The planning scheme defines:

  • ‘building height’ – the vertical distance between the ground level and the finished roof height directly above.
  • ‘storey’ – that part of a building between floor levels. If there is no floor above, it is the part between the floor level and ceiling. It may include an attic, basement, built over car parking area, and mezzanine.

This requirement is unclear because of the differing thresholds applied by the two terms. For example, it is unclear whether a building less than 21 metres but with seven storeys is acceptable. Thresholds must be carefully applied to ensure the intent of a provision is clearly understood, particularly where more than one threshold is applied. Also, avoid using terms like ‘mid-rise’ and ‘high-rise’ without explaining what the terms mean.

The above requirement could be improved. For example:

Building height should not exceed 21 metres or six storeys (not including a basement), whichever is the lesser. No structure except an architectural feature may be constructed above the finished roof.

Before a new definition is used, consider why a new definition is needed. The Act and the VPP provide a number of definitions and a provision should be drafted on the basis of these definitions.

A definition should not introduce controls. Metrics or other conditions, such as the requirements over the size and hours of operation should not be included in a definition. For example:

‘Live work development’ means a dwelling adapted for use as a home-based office provided the office component is less than 40 square metres and is not publicly accessible out of normal business hours.
‘Live work development’ means a dwelling adapted for use as a home-based office.

Any desired metrics or conditions on the use should be introduced through separate requirements in the provision.

6.1.4 Traditional Owner place names

To honour and preserve Traditional Owner languages, planning authorities are encouraged to identify places within planning schemes using Traditional Owner place names.

Traditional Owner place names may be applied in planning schemes by using either a registered or unregistered Traditional Owner place name.

Registered Traditional Owner place names

See the Register of Geographical Names VICNAMES to search for Traditional Owner place names in Victoria. These include registered ‘dual names’ where the non-indigenous name and Traditional Owner name of a place are combined to make the official place name. For more information on dual names, see the Naming Rules for Places in Victoria - Statutory Requirements for Naming Roads, Features and Localities (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, 2022) (Naming Rules).

Unregistered Traditional Owner place names

An unregistered Traditional Owner place name may be used in planning schemes where:

  • The Traditional Owner place name is widely known.
  • Its boundaries are consistent with the boundaries of the place that is subject to the planning scheme provision.
  • The relevant Registered Aboriginal Party/s (RAP) has agreed to the use of the place name. (Agreement can be established as part of the associated planning scheme amendment or a separate council process. Where a RAP is not in place, see the relevant Traditional Owner group, noting that more than one RAP or Traditional Owner group may have an interest in the affected land).
  • Consistent naming is used for the place throughout the planning scheme.

An unregistered Traditional Owner place name may be applied by using the ‘co-naming method’ or by replacing the non-indigenous place name with a Traditional Owner place name.

Co-naming uses the registered name of a place, followed by the Traditional Owner place name. This naming method should be applied in an unabbreviated form, with both terms being capitalised and with brackets around the Traditional Owner name to distinguish the term. For example, co-naming ‘Melbourne’ using the Traditional Owner term ‘Narrm’ would look like ‘Melbourne (Narrm)’.

Co-naming does not change the official registered name of a place. VICNAMES includes registered Traditional Owner place names and the Naming Rules explain how Traditional Owner place names may be registered and cited.

It is important to note that some Traditional Owner place names may not have a pre-set or defined boundary, particularly in cases where the place is shared with other Traditional Owner groups.

6.1.5 Sentence construction

Good writers apply several key techniques to sentence construction.

  • Aim for an average of 15 to 25 words per sentence. Shorter, simple sentences are easier to read. They are also more likely to be grammatically correct.
  • Place one idea in a sentence – avoid run-on sentences that connect multiple ideas with linking words and commas.
  • Put the most important part of the sentence first.
  • Avoid repetition – delete unnecessary words and information.
  • Use dot point lists to break down units of information in a sentence.
  • Use punctuation to organise a sentence into manageable units.
  • Use simple, active sentences whenever possible. (Refer to Active or passive voice in Appendix 1)

6.1.6 Writing a list

Bulleted or dot point lists are commonly used in the planning scheme to set out requirements, criteria or expectations. Lists are a useful way of breaking up and clarifying complex sentences. Consider the following when creating a list.

Make your meaning clear

Each list item should read as a separate instruction or statement.

Put the list items in a logical order and keep related matters together to aid comprehension.

When sub-dot points are used, also ensure they have a logical sequence, contain only a single matter and do not overlap or conflict with other points.

Where a list imposes or exempts a matter from a control, be clear about whether all or some of the list items must be met. In policy, the whole list applies unless otherwise specified. Do not use ‘and’ or ‘or’ at the end of a point.

If necessary, use standard phrases in the introduction to make the requirement clear.

…must meet one or more of:
…must meet all of the following requirements:
…provided all of the following requirements are met:
…provided any of the following apply:
…if any of the following apply:
…unless one or more of the following applies:
...this does not apply to any of the following:

Alternatively, it might be better to rewrite the provision.

In the following example, it is not clear if the permit exemption requires compliance with one or both of the bulleted items.

A permit is not required for an outbuilding if:
  • The building area is less than 50 square metres.
  • The building is set back more than 25 metres from any boundary.

This can be avoided by rewriting the provision to remove the ambiguity.

A permit is not required for an outbuilding if any of the following apply:
  • The building area is less than 50 square metres.
  • The building is set back more than 25 metres from any boundary.

Another option is to write the provision as a single instruction, such as in the example below.

A permit is not required for an outbuilding provided the building area is either less than 50 square metres or the building is set back more than 25 metres from any boundary.

Be consistent

Make the word type and tense consistent for the first word of each point. If you begin a list with a noun, continue using nouns; if you begin with a verb, continue with verbs.

A permit is required to:
  • Construct (verb) two or more dwellings on a lot.
  • Extend (verb) a dwelling if there are two or more dwellings on the lot.

Punctuation for lists

The style convention in planning scheme list writing is to:

  • Place a colon after the lead-in sentence to clarify the link with the indented information that follows.
  • Format bullets with:
    • a square bullet (◾) for the first level of dot point.
    • an en dash character (–) for a second level sub-dot point.
    • a mini square bullet () for a third level sub-sub-point where necessary. Avoid 3 levels if you can.
  • Start each point with a capital letter. A point can include more than one sentence.
  • End each point with a full stop.
  • Semicolons, ‘or’ and ‘and’ are not used at the end of a point.

Refer to the style guide in the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes for the correct styles to use.

In-sentence lists

Do not use in-sentence lists in a control. They may sometimes be suitable in a policy statement.

Only use an in-sentence list if the number of items is small.

Only use a colon to introduce list items if a complete sentence precedes the list.

For this project you need tape, scissors and white-out.
For this project you need three items: tape, scissors and white-out.
For this project you need: tape, scissors and white-out.

6.1.7 Content longevity

Where possible, draft provisions to endure without the need for regular amendments. Avoid things like:

  • Quoting census data, unless it will be regularly reviewed and updated.
  • Naming external documents that are regularly updated – aim to include relevant content directly within the scheme.
  • Citing cross-references to other clause numbers, except where it avoids content being repeated (e.g. maps).

Where a planning scheme cites population figures (usually within an MPS) the source and date should follow the statistic – e.g. (ABS, 2021).

6.2 How to include a map or diagram

The Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes requires that any image in a planning scheme ordinance including a map must meet all of the following requirements:

  • The image cropped and sized to fit the available space on the page with a maximum file size of 3,000 kilobytes and 300 pixels per inch (ppi).
  • Be the only image on a horizontal line (that is, no images side by side or use of multiple images or layered images to make one single image).
  • Have a title, reference number and border.
  • The image title written as text outside of the image.
  • Include a legend and source, where applicable.
  • Include a north arrow and scale, where applicable.

When preparing a map or presenting visual data, aim for it to be readable:

  • in black and white
  • by a person affected by colour blindness.

Communicating Data with Colour: A Guide to Producing Colour Accessible Maps and Visual Data (DPCD, 2011) is a useful guide for use of colour in maps.

6.3 How to write a Municipal Planning Strategy

The MPS is located at Clause 02 and sets the basis for the local content in the planning scheme. It does not form part of the VPP as it consists only of local content. The structure of the MPS is set out by the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes and includes:

  • Context
  • Vision
  • Strategic directions
  • Strategic framework plan.

The MPS must succinctly explain the context for a municipality and provide the overarching strategies for the major land use and development matters that affect it. Detailed policy belongs in clauses 10 to 19 of the planning scheme.

The content of the MPS should be easily read, expressed in a logical sequence and grouped by related land use and development themes. The preferred approach is to follow the PPF themes. This reinforces the strategic linkages between the PPF and the MPS, helps navigation and improves the ease of use of the planning scheme. PPF policy topics are addressed in the MPS based on the priorities of the municipality.

Information that is likely to become out of date before the next review cycle (about 4 years) should not be included.

To ensure the MPS focuses on priorities and provides a clear and direct message about a council’s planning aspirations, the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes specifies a word limit for the MPS. Plans are not included in the word limit.

An example MPS is provided in Appendix 3.

6.3.1 Context

The context is a concise half to one page description of the municipality in its regional setting. It should provide a very brief description of the geographic, economic, environmental and demographic qualities of the municipality. These should represent both the opportunities and challenges that establish the key land use and development issues to be addressed in the municipal vision and strategic directions.

The context should set the scene for what issues are important to the municipality and need to be addressed by the planning scheme. There is no need to provide extensive detail or state how the issue will be addressed in the context statement because this is the role of the strategic directions.

The context can be accompanied by a plan, if needed. A context plan is a useful tool to portray municipal context information ‘at a glance’. This can be a separate plan or the information can be integrated with a strategic framework plan, if appropriate. Annotations can be used as required.

A context plan can illustrate the key features of the municipality and provide a regional context. It can convey further detail on an aspect of the municipality. For instance, if the population of individual towns is important to subsequent strategies, then that information can be conveyed by a map.

Population figures are often used to help explain the context of a municipality in the MPS. Only cite statistics in the MPS if it provides useful planning context and can be regularly reviewed and updated. Where statistics are used, the source and date of the data should be specified – e.g. (ABS, 2021).

Acknowledgement of Country

To acknowledge and honour Traditional Owners’ strong and continuing connection to land within a municipality, a Municipal Planning Strategy may start with a short Acknowledgement of Country at clause 02.

In some instances, there will be more than one Traditional Owner group represented in an Acknowledgement of Country due to municipal boundaries being inconsistent with Traditional Owners’ land boundaries.

To identify relevant Traditional Owner land for a municipality refer to the Aboriginal Cultural Register and Information System (ACHRIS) live map.

6.3.2 Vision

The vision is an overarching statement of intent that describes the type of municipality a council seeks to create. It should be concise, typically half to one page, and can comprise one consolidated statement or a set of statements. The vision must focus on land use and development issues capable of being influenced by the planning scheme.

If the vision is derived from a vision statement sourced outside the planning scheme (such as from a council plan that addresses broader issues), that wider vision statement will need to be distilled into a vision for the MPS that focuses on land use and development.

The vision together with the strategic directions and strategic framework plan provide an opportunity to set out the local directions of the planning scheme, consistent with state policy in clauses 10 to 19.

6.3.3 Strategic directions

The strategic directions outline how a municipality will implement its vision and manage key issues relevant to the municipality. Strategic directions are the high-level policy intentions for the municipality that provide the basis for matters that are implemented through more detailed policy at clauses 10 to 19 or a planning scheme control.

Strategic directions are consistent with and build on state planning policy in the PPF and respond to the planning vision in a council plan.

The strategic directions must be supported by background strategic work that has already been undertaken by a council. If the work to support the strategic directions has not been undertaken, then that matter may be identified as further strategic work in Clause 74.02 or elsewhere in a council work or business plan, not in the MPS. The strategic directions need to be evidence-based so that they can be reasonably implemented through the planning scheme.

The strategic directions should articulate what is most important to the municipality from a land use and development perspective and provide an understanding of why those issues are important. In particular, they may:

  • set out how state and regional policy will be implemented at the municipal level
  • articulate how identified issues will be addressed and how the vision will be implemented
  • contain direction on matters such as opportunities for growth, a township or activity centre hierarchy, areas of environmental significance or any other topic that is relevant to land use and development within the municipality
  • provide the policy basis for the application of controls and the local policies in clauses 10 to 19. A description of the relationship between a planning scheme’s policy and controls should be set out at Clause 74.01 (see Chapter 5.5.7)
  • potentially provide direction on future change that is beyond the life of the planning scheme review period, provided that it is based on strategic work already undertaken.

Strategic directions should be grouped by theme and identified by sub-headings. The themes should follow those of the PPF for consistency and navigability. The strategic directions for each theme may be supplemented with a brief context (generally 1 or 2 paragraphs) to help explain the basis of the strategic directions. While this contextual information is written in the narrative form, strategic directions must be in bullet point form, so they are clearly identified. Each strategic direction should only express one idea.

These are examples of appropriate strategic directions:

Encourage tourism uses in the Port Shipwreck township, particularly where they support the local farming and fishing industries.

[This is a high level strategic direction and should be in the MPS.]
Facilitate the provision of lower cost accommodation, social housing and housing for people of all abilities in and around the Gumnut town centre and neighbourhood centres.

[This expands on state policy but is still a high level direction.]

Some examples that are not appropriate as a strategic direction are:

The town of Port Shipwreck is a district centre servicing surrounding settlements and a focus for tourism in the Shire.
[This is a statement of context not a strategic direction. It would suitably preface a strategic direction.]
A range of housing types should be provided in North Gumnut.

[This is too general and does not provide any further guidance or direction beyond state planning policy and should not be included.]

Support larger lots in Precinct 3 to ensure an appropriate interface with the Sun Moth Nature Reserve. Direct medium density housing to Precinct 1 which is within walking distance of the North Gumnut Railway Station.

[This provides specific direction that will assist decision making and therefore belongs in the PPF.]

The consideration of neighbourhood character is required in the assessment of infill housing development proposals within existing residential areas. There can be a tension in planning policy between urban consolidation objectives and the desire to respect residential amenity and neighbourhood character.

[This requires that neighbourhood character be considered for infill housing and identifies that a conflict exists between development and neighbourhood character but gives no direction about how neighbourhood character is to be considered or how the identified conflict might be resolved.]

This would be better written as:

Support infill housing development that respects the neighbourhood character of the area.
Facilitate a new character that complements important natural, cultural and historic built form and landscape values in urban consolidation and greenfield development areas.
[The direction has been split and specifies that neighbourhood character in existing areas is to be maintained and identifies the areas where a new character would be supported. If necessary, this direction could be supported by the application of a Neighbourhood Character Overlay, a local variation to the Neighbourhood Residential Zone or a local policy on neighbourhood character.]

Ensure the strategic directions have a clear and direct basis in land use and development planning. Do not include directions that cannot be implemented by a planning scheme or are so vague that their relevance to planning is tenuous.

Support the development of new skills and jobs.

[This direction is not land use and development focussed. A policy that seeks to facilitate particular industries (e.g. tourism or the intensive animal industry) would have the effect of supporting job creation but would have more relevance in planning decision-making. The direction should still explain how industry would be facilitated.]
Monitor the impact of erosion on agricultural land and respond with appropriate measures.

[The planning scheme does not enact monitoring and it is unclear what an ‘appropriate measure’ is. This direction needs to be rewritten to address how planning will manage erosion on agricultural land. It should follow with local planning policy that explains the measures to be implemented.]

Often public realm aspirations to promote things like cycling and walking paths, safer roads or attractive gateway entries do not need a planning permit to be realised, so cannot be included as policy in a planning scheme. In some instances, these directions might have a strategic aim – for example, in a growth area (i.e. that future subdivisions achieve a particular outcome). Whether a policy is a high-level strategic direction or a more detailed strategy in the PPF, its context needs to be made clear, so a user understands how to apply it.

6.3.4 Strategic framework plan

The strategic framework plan is a spatial representation of the key strategic directions for the municipality. The vision, strategic directions and strategic framework plan together provide the ‘big picture’ response to the opportunities and challenges facing a municipality.

The strategic framework plan:

  • should show spatially how the municipality is expected to change as a result of the implementation of the planning scheme
  • complements the policy in the MPS and where relevant, PPF. It cannot replace policy text. For example, a strategic direction must be in the text of the MPS and not solely on a framework plan
  • should have a clear link with the strategic directions in the MPS and can be annotated to express the strategic directions on the plan
  • may show matters such as directions for growth and development, housing frameworks, industrial land supply, productive agricultural land, strategic redevelopment sites, significant infrastructure, areas of environmental significance or areas where environmental risk must be managed or any other matter that the MPS identifies
  • should do more than show existing conditions
  • can be more than one plan if a single plan would not be legible.

6.3.5 Incorporated and background documents

Incorporated and background documents may be referenced in the text of the MPS where a document has directly informed the creation of a strategic direction. Documents that generally inform the creation of the MPS do not need to be specifically listed within it. A Council Plan does not need to be referenced in the planning scheme. Its relevance is implicit.

The schedules to clauses 72.04 and 72.08 allow local incorporated and background documents to be listed in the planning scheme.

6.3.6 Application of zones, overlays and provisions

The schedule to Clause 74.01 includes a general explanation of the relationship between the Municipal Planning Strategy, the objectives and strategies in clauses 10 to 19 and the controls in the planning scheme. It must be drafted as follows:

  • List provisions in sequence with the VPP (i.e. residential zones first, with each of the residential zones being listed in order, and so on).
  • Include a short statement of how or why the provision was applied. If the reason is obvious, do not list the item in the schedule – the application of some provisions is automatically evident (e.g. the Heritage Overlay, which is applied to heritage places of natural or cultural significance, or the Transport Zone to identify the transport system.
  • Use a concise bulleted format – see the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes for the prescribed format.


This planning scheme applies the following zones, overlays and provisions to implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the objectives and strategies in clauses 11 to 19:

  • Low Density Residential Zone to:
    • Sewered residential lots of at least 0.2 hectare.
    • Residential areas in and around major towns.
  • Township Zone:
    • To facilitate a commercial development where the separation of land uses is not critical to the function of the town.
    • Within the Janszoon Town Centre to facilitate mixed use development.
  • Design and Development Overlay to manage the scale and design of development on land within the setting and backdrop area of the War Memorial.
  • Floodway Overlay to floodplains in Inverleigh, Waratah Creek and Cumberland as identified by the Gumnut Catchment Management Authority.

Further strategic work

The identification of further strategic work may be useful for a council to set strategic priorities and obtain funding for a project. However, as these strategic intentions are not fully formed and have not had the benefit of strategic work to underpin them, there is a risk that they can be used as speculative policy and lead to decisions being made that are not based on adopted policy. The identification of further strategic work is not a requirement of the Act and does not form part of the MPS or PPF. Instead, this information may be listed in a separate schedule to Clause 74.02. A responsible authority is not required to take this clause into account when making a decision.

Where a list of further strategic work is provided in a planning scheme, it should comprise a concise list of work the council intends to undertake in the next review cycle (about 4 years). The work must have a land use and development focus and must relate to matters that can be implemented through a planning scheme.

6.4 How to write a local policy

6.4.1 The role and content of local policy

Local policy provides the detailed policy directions for a municipality. The role of local policy in the PPF differs from the MPS, which provides higher level strategic policy direction. Local policy helps a council to implement state policy in a way that is relevant to their vision for the municipality.

Zones, overlays and particular and general provisions are the primary implementation mechanism of the strategic policy directions in a planning scheme. Where a zone, overlay, particular provision or general provision provides all the direction required to make a decision, a local policy is not needed. Similarly, where statewide or regional policy provides all relevant direction required for decision making, a local policy is not required.

Local policy has a role in providing direction at a municipal level where:

  • locally specific policy guidance is needed on a particular matter
  • directions intersect with a number of controls (for example, urban design considerations may apply to multiple zones)
  • guidance is needed to support decision making associated with a zone, overlay or other controls (such as non-residential uses in a residential zone).

Local policy has an important role in expressing the local objectives of a municipality and helping shape the kind of place a council wishes to create. As a result, it is important that policy be clear, concise, accurate and works towards achieving the intended outcome. Local policy complements the zones, overlays and provisions that are the primary implementation mechanism for the objectives of a municipality.

Ambiguity weakens policy. Ambiguous statements give rise to inconsistent interpretations that dilute the intent of policy. Ensure policy can be clearly and consistently interpreted.

Avoid repetition. Each policy should have a clear purpose that is distinct from other policies but flows to the next to create a well-rounded policy set. Once a point has been made, do not be tempted to repeat it in an effort to strengthen the message, even if it is expressed in a different way or a different part of the scheme. The only exception to this is within the MPS, where a local strategic direction may reaffirm a state planning policy to emphasise the importance of that policy to that municipality.

Local policy should only be used to provide locally specific direction for a municipality. It must not assume the role of state policy or take on a broader mandate.

A policy objective may be common across precincts or themes. If precinct-based policies have common directions across all precincts, rather than repeating the direction for each precinct, create an ‘all precincts’ section to the policy to communicate the message more efficiently. This approach also highlights the distinctive elements to the different precincts, strengthening the policy.

Policy should be written in plain English and must clearly articulate the outcome it seeks to achieve. Avoid making statements that do not provide direction, such as contextual information or descriptions, high level strategies (that belong in the MPS) or portraying the challenges involved in resolving a particular issue.

Good policy requires a deliberate and precise choice of words, careful sentence construction to eliminate superfluous content and proper use of grammar. Clear and concise policy writing that is straight to the point and uses the fewest possible words without sacrificing meaning makes writing more understandable to its audience.

Objectives and strategies are the key elements used to communicate the intent of a policy.

Objectives are a statement of what a policy seeks to achieve. Objectives must be clear, concise and be able to be implemented via the planning scheme.

Strategies are statements that outline how an objective is to be achieved. Strategies must be able to be implemented via a planning scheme.

At a local level, the MPS provides the ‘why’ of policy, an objective provides the ‘what’ and a strategy provides the ‘how’. Policy guidelines are a more detailed form of ‘how’.

In order to be included in the PPF, a local policy must meet the rules relating to the suitability of the policy, its content and drafting. These rules are set out in Chapter 6.4.

6.4.2 Policy composition

This chapter explains how to populate content in clauses 10 to 19. This complements the structure provided in Annexure 3 of the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes. The table below sets out the policy elements that can be used for a policy theme by each tier of policy. While not all policy elements need to be used, it is not possible to add additional policy elements.

Table 4:  Use of policy elements
Policy element and functionState Regional
(if included)
(if included)
Identifies the policy
Must be includedMust be includedMust be included
Policy application
Sets out where a policy is applicable
May be included May be included May be included
Sets out what the aim of a policy is
Must be included May be included May be included
Specifies how a policy is to be achieved
Must be includedMust be includedMust be included
Policy guidelines
Provides detailed guidance on how a policy may be achieved
May be included May be included May be included
Policy documents
Lists directly relevant incorporated, background documents
May be included May be included May be included
Provides a visual expression of policy or sets out where a policy applies
May be included May be included May be included

Where needed:

  • more than one regional or local policy may be included under a PPF theme
  • more than one objective may be included for a local policy.

Policy title

All policies must have a title that identifies the policy. The title should be short but descriptive, such as ‘East Myrtle neighbourhood character’ or ‘Shadow Bay gateway built form design’.

The word 'policy' must not be included and the title must accurately reflect the content of the policy.

Policy application

Policy application identifies where the policy applies.

As local policy is often more targeted in nature than a state policy, a local policy will more often identify where (or to what type of application) a policy applies.

Local policy should relate clearly to a specific discretion or group of discretions in the planning scheme and can relate to an area or both. A policy application must be consistent with the content of the policy. If the strategies contained within a policy relate to use and development, then make sure this is reflected in the policy application.

The land area or type of application a policy applies to must be clearly defined so that the policy can be appropriately applied.

A policy that applies to an entire municipality does not need its application stipulated. Clause 71.02-2 states that a planning policy applies to all land subject to the planning scheme unless the policy specifies otherwise.

Where a policy applies can be identified using one of the following techniques:

  • If a policy applies to a specific area already defined in the planning scheme, identification can be achieved by a brief statement such as:
  • This policy applies to all planning applications for rural industry in the Farming Zone and the Rural Conservation Zone.

  • If a policy applies to all applications in a specific area that has not been defined in the planning scheme, a map must be included with the local policy that defines the area of application. Use words such as:
  • This policy applies to land shown in the East Gumnut urban renewal precinct map.

  • If a policy applies to certain types of use or development, use a written description. For example:
  • This policy applies to applications for residential development of five or more storeys.

  • If a policy applies to a site that has a specific address, then it can be identified by that address. For example:
  • This policy applies to the land at 112-216 Lorikeet Way, Timothy Crossing.

Do not use long, written descriptions for a policy area boundary. Use a local policy map that clearly identifies the boundary of the policy area using precise markers such as property boundaries, roads (including the road names), waterways and railways.


An objective and its associated strategies convey the key policy directions of the planning scheme. An objective sets out the core purpose of a policy.

State policy: Each state policy will comprise an objective with supporting strategies. State policy must include an objective as it sets out the overarching direction for each policy.

Regional policy: A regional objective is only included if it expands on the state objective, with the region’s particular policy emphasis or distinction. If a regional objective is absent, a regional strategy is read in the context of the state objective. A regional objective must not repeat a state objective.

Local policy: Local objectives must be relevant to the municipality and should only be included if they expand on a state or regional objective with a particular local emphasis or distinction.

Where a local objective is absent, a local strategy is interpreted to be implementing the state or regional objective. There can be more than one objective in a local policy, although the number of objectives should be minimised wherever possible.

If a local objective repeats a state or regional objective, then it must not be included.

Objectives must be expressed to make clear what outcome is being sought, keeping in mind that a policy can only relate to the exercise of a discretion under the planning scheme.


Strategies describe how an objective is to be achieved. In the case of a local policy, a strategy may describe how a strategic direction from the MPS is to be achieved. Every statewide policy objective in the PPF is supported by a set of strategies. Further strategies may be provided at a regional level if needed and these can respond to the state objective or a regional objective if one has been identified. Additional strategies may also be provided at the local level that:

  • expand on or refine a statewide objective or strategy
  • expand on or refine a regional objective or strategy (where relevant)
  • expand on a strategic direction in the MPS
  • respond to a local objective (where relevant).

A regional or local strategy must not repeat a statewide strategy. Similarly, a local strategy must not repeat a regional strategy. The practical outcome of this is that if there are no specific strategies that expand on or refine either state or regional policy, then no policy is required at a local level. This also applies to regional strategies that do not expand on or refine state policy.

Where strategies directly support a state or regional objective then the objective does not need to be re-stated. It is essential that the strategies be focused on the implementation of a policy that can be achieved through the application of a planning scheme.

Each strategy should express only one idea. Avoid long or multi-sentence strategies. Instead, where a strategy is complex and lengthy because it has a number of directly interrelated elements, use bullets to break down the information to help relay the information more clearly.

Policy guidelines

Planning policy must be sufficiently flexible to allow for alternative solutions to achieve the outcome sought. Sometimes greater direction through explicit measures, may more effectively direct an outcome. In most instances, specific (often numerical) requirements can be included in a schedule to a zone or overlay.

However, there may be some measures that clarify an expectation of how a policy can be met that:

  • are too prescriptive for policy
  • may represent one way of achieving a desired outcome, where other suitable options may be available
  • intersect with a number of zones and overlays.

Examples of such measures include specifying recommended hours of operation for non-residential uses in residential zones or the preferred number of vehicle crossings in a neighbourhood character precinct. These measures can be set out in the PPF as policy guidelines.

Decision guidelines and application requirements are not policy guidelines.

Policy guidelines are an optional part of policy and are not a substitute for a control. They are generally only required in exceptional circumstances. Proper use of zone and overlay schedules, together with robust strategies in policy, will usually avoid the need for policy guidelines.

In addition to meeting the rules outlined in Chapter 4 a policy guideline must:

  • directly derive from an objective or strategy in a policy (at the state, regional or local level) and set out a clear expectation of how an objective or strategy can be met
  • provide a standard that guides the exercise of discretion for a decision-maker
  • be based on appropriate data or research
  • not repeat or contradict controls in a zone, overlay, particular or general provision. This would include not repeating application requirements or decision guidelines
  • not attempt to prohibit an alternative outcome that meets the objective(s) of the policy
  • be the only appropriate implementation measure to convey the guideline because:
    • an appropriate alternative VPP instrument is not available
    • an inefficient or complicated implementation would be needed using a number of zones and overlays.

Operationally, policy guidelines must be taken into account, but are not required to be given effect to (unlike objectives and strategies). A permit applicant can propose an alternative method, but must still demonstrate that any proposed alternative satisfies the relevant objective or strategy.

State and regional policies can also include policy guidelines.

Policy documents

There are two types of documents that can support local policy in the PPF, incorporated and background documents. State planning policy also includes some legislative references and references to ministerial directions.

Policy (and other provisions) should generally be self-contained and include the information necessary to assess and decide an application. Where additional, more detailed guidance is absolutely necessary, it can be provided through an incorporated document.

If a policy relies on an incorporated document then it must be referenced in the policy as a policy document and a decision-maker must consider it when making a decision.

For more information about incorporated documents, see Chapter 6.6.1.

Background documents provide information to explain the context in which a particular policy has been framed. A background document may explain why particular requirements are in the planning scheme, substantiate a specific issue or provide background to a provision. Because background documents are not part of the planning scheme, the substantive planning elements of the document (such as built form guidelines or the like) will have been included in the planning scheme in either a local policy or a schedule.

Where a background document is directly related to a policy in clauses 10 to 19 it may be referenced in that specific policy as well as the schedule to Clause 72.08. If a background document relates to a substantial number of policies (such as a Regional Growth Plan) it should not be repetitively referenced in the PPF. The schedule to Clause 72.08 enables a consolidated list of local background documents to be maintained in the planning scheme.

Practice notes are not suitable to be referenced as background documents.

For more information on background documents, see Chapter 6.6.2.

Policy maps

Maps can be an important part of understanding the locational aspects of a local policy. Maps are required where a policy application refers to a geographic area not already mapped elsewhere in a planning scheme. Where a policy area is adequately mapped elsewhere (such as all land within the General Residential Zone Schedule 1) or it can be identified by an address, a map is not required.

Maps complement a policy and can be important in providing the spatial understanding of a policy. They cannot be a substitute for policy. Any policy content (such as a strategy or an objective) must be in the text of the policy.

Maps should be digital (not a scanned copy of a paper map) and be of sufficient resolution to ensure that relevant details can be read. If a map outlines precincts, the boundaries of those precincts must be clearly identifiable. Maps must conform to the requirements of Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes. Use more than one map if that will convey the information more clearly.

6.4.3 Applying the PPF policy elements

Differentiating policy elements

The PPF’s ongoing legibility relies on each of the PPF policy elements being properly applied.

Knowing how each of the policy elements differ, how they relate to strategic directions in the MPS and how the state, regional and local policy levels interact is key to maintaining a concise, consistent and navigable planning scheme. The table below summarises Chapter 6.4.2 above, explaining the key characteristics of the main PPF elements and how they relate to the strategic directions of the MPS.

The table and subsequent examples are provided to help clarify the difference between the policy elements.

Table 5: MPS and PPF policy elements

Policy element and function Key characteristics
Strategic direction [MPS]
Over-arching municipal policy.
  • Outlines the important local planning policies for the municipality
  • Can reiterate a state planning policy, where the direction seeks to emphasise a key issue for the municipality.
Objective [PPF]
Key policy direction (whether state, regional or local).
  • Sets out what the aim of a policy is
  • Outcome-based
  • Local objectives only required in exceptional circumstances – where there is a need to expand on a state objective or strategy.
Strategy [PPF]
Detailed policy describing how an objective, state strategy or an MPS strategic direction is to be achieved.
  • Specifies how a policy is to be achieved
  • Is sufficiently flexible to allow for alternative solutions to achieve the outcome sought.
Policy guideline [PPF]
Prescribed policy options describing how a local strategy may be implemented.
  • Provides detailed guidance on how a strategy is to be achieved
  • Gives explicit/prescriptive measures
  • Typically represents one way of achieving a desired outcome, where other suitable options are available
  • Only required in exceptional circumstances
  • Robust strategies coupled with zone and overlay provisions will usually avoid the need for policy guidelines
  • Unlike decision guidelines, policy guidelines are directive. They do not consist of neutral considerations.

The example below shows how strategic directions may restate a state planning policy to highlight a key issue for a municipality. Duplicate policy is, however, not provided for within the PPF, as the integrated nature of the framework eliminates the need for any replication.

Reiterating state planning policy in MPS – Example

Strategic directions [MPS]

Protect life and property from bushfire events. [clause 02.03-3 Gumnut Planning Scheme]

Manage the urban bushfire threat interface of towns in areas prone to bushfire risk. [clause 02.03-3 Gumnut Planning Scheme]

State Planning Policy [PPF]

To strengthen the resilience of settlements and communities to bushfire through risk-based planning that prioritises the protection of human life. [clause 13.02-1S]

Some further examples of the main policy elements discussed in Table 3 are set out below. Chapter 6.4.2 above explains the operation of other policy elements, such as policy application and policy documents.

Positioning policy in MPS and PPF

Strategic direction [MPS] Protect the environmental, landscape and scenic values of the Gumnut Ranges. [clause 02.03-2 Gumnut Planning Scheme]
State Planning Policy [PPF] To protect and enhance significant landscapes and open spaces that contribute to character, identity and sustainable environments. [clause 12.05-2S]
The SPP also includes several relevant strategies.

Local Planning Policy [PPF]


To ensure development respects the scenic qualities of the Gumnut Ranges. [12.05-2L Gumnut Planning Scheme]
Strategies Design development near ridgelines and hilltops to follow the profile of the land on which it is sited. [12.05-2L Gumnut Planning Scheme]
Minimise earthworks or removal of vegetation near ridgelines and hilltops. [12.05-2L Gumnut Planning Scheme]
Policy guidelines Consider as relevant:
  • Avoiding earthworks or removal of vegetation on lots with a slope greater than 20 per cent. [12.05-2L Gumnut Planning Scheme]

Strategic direction [MPS] Discourage fragmentation of farming land and an oversupply of rural living land. [02.03-4]
State Planning Policy [PPF] To protect the state’s agricultural base by preserving productive farmland. [14.01-1S]
The SPP also includes several relevant strategies.
Local Planning Policy [PPF]


N/A - The State Planning Policy establishes a clear and extensive basis for the local strategies below.
Strategies Discourage subdivision and accommodation that does not directly support the use of land for agriculture. [14.01-1L]
Retain agricultural land in parcels of sufficient size for agricultural purposes. [14.01-1L]
Discourage subdivision that is not for the purpose of excising an existing dwelling that is excess to the requirements of a rural use. [14.01-1L]
Restructure lots to create a smaller lot for a dwelling instead of the creation of additional lots. [14.01-1L]
Policy guidelines Consider as relevant:
  • A maximum lot size of 2 hectares for any dwelling.
  • Whether any excised dwellings are in habitable condition. [14.01-1L]

Strategic direction [MPS] Protect and enhance the municipality’s valued streetscapes by managing the scale, intensity and form of development. [02.03-5]
State Planning Policy [PPF] Require development to respond to its context in terms of character, cultural identity, natural features, surrounding landscape and climate. [15.01-1S]
Local Planning Policy [PPF]


To promote signs that make a positive contribution to the streetscape. [15.01-1L]
Strategies Encourage signs that are proportioned and designed to complement the host building and site. [15.01-1L]
Policy guidelines Consider as relevant:
  • Limiting under-verandah signs to:
    • One sign per building
    • A maximum of 1.5 square metres in area
  • …  [15.01-1L]

Strategic direction [MPS]

Preserve and grow employment in Gumnut by protecting industrial and commercial areas. [02.03-3]

State Planning Policy [PPF]

To protect community amenity, human health and safety while facilitating appropriate commercial, industrial, infrastructure or other uses with potential adverse off-site impacts. [13.07-1S]

The SPP also includes relevant strategies at Clause 13.07-1S and in Clause 17.

Local Planning Policy [PPF]


N/A - The State Planning Policy establishes a clear basis for the local strategy below.


Protect business and industry by preventing dwellings from establishing in industrial and commercial zones where a dwelling is prohibited. [13.07-1L]

Policy guidelines

Consider as relevant:
  • Whether a caretaker’s house is legitimately associated with and ancillary to any commercial or industrial use on the land by:
    • It being above ground level and self-contained.
    • It comprising less than 10 per cent of the total floor area of the associated commercial or industrial use (excluding car parking and loading bay areas) or 100 square metres, whichever is less.
    • There being a need for a caretaker to oversee the commercial or industrial property when it is unoccupied or to supervise its operation.[13.07-1L]

Grouping of objectives, strategies and policy guidelines

Where a local policy provides multiple objectives, it is more easily understood when relevant strategies are grouped with or linked to the objective they derive from. Group or link like objectives with their relevant strategies and any associated policy guidelines in a clear way, considering the content of the policy. Grouping long lists of objectives and long lists of strategies without distinguishing their relationship should be avoided. The reader should be able to clearly and efficiently identify the strategies that support an objective.

This is the preferred structure for a multi-objective policy.


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The exact grouping of objectives, strategies and policy guidelines (if needed) is flexible and depends on the content of the policy and how it should be best laid out in order to ensure the policy is useable. Objectives and strategies may be grouped by precinct or under thematic sub-headings depending on the content and complexity of a policy.

Tables may only be used in the PPF where it would present information more clearly and efficiently than in the standard format.

PPF objectives and strategies are un-numbered. Bullets are applied to policy guidelines and policy documents.

6.4.4 Policy themes

In clauses 10 to 19, the state, regional and local levels of policy are grouped by theme, with directly relevant regional and local policies ‘nested’ under the corresponding state planning policy where policy is in place at those levels.

When preparing a local policy for the PPF, an assessment of the relevant policy themes is required to understand how best to prepare and place a policy. Each local policy will address a particular theme. That theme needs to correspond with a relevant state policy theme. For instance, a local policy that relates to neighbourhood character would be placed under Clause 15.01-5 Neighbourhood character and a policy that relates to the subdivision of agricultural land would be placed under Clause 14.01-1 (Protection of agricultural land).

There will be instances where a policy primarily relates to a particular theme but has minor references to other related matters, which may suggest that certain strategies should be split out under alternative policy themes. However, in these instances, the policy can be placed under its dominant theme rather than splitting the policy up unnecessarily. For example:

  • A local policy that relates to developing an area as a focus for technology and research but contains a reference to accommodation (such as only allowing accommodation uses that support the technology and research uses) can remain as a single policy.
  • If a strategy for a sign policy relates only to the appearance of a sign in a heritage area, then the policy can sit with Clause 15.03-1 (Heritage conservation). However, if a set of strategies broadly relate to the urban design aspects of signs, but the policy has a component that relates to heritage, then the policy should remain together under Clause 15.01-1 (Urban design).

When placing a local policy in the PPF, the content of the relevant state policy (the objectives and strategies) must be examined closely to determine the kinds of policies that can be placed with it. The state policy headings will not always indicate the full range of policies allowed under a policy. For example, Clause 15.01-1 (Urban Design) reads:


To create urban environments that are safe, healthy, functional and enjoyable and that contribute to a sense of place and cultural identity.


Require development to respond to its context in terms of character, cultural identity, natural features, surrounding landscape and climate.

Ensure development contributes to community and cultural life by improving the quality of living and working environments, facilitating accessibility and providing for inclusiveness.

Ensure the interface between the private and the public realm protects and enhances personal safety.

Ensure development supports public realm amenity and safe access to walking and cycling environments and public transport.

Ensure that the design and location of publicly accessible private space, including car parking areas, forecourts and walkways, is of a high standard, creates a safe environment for users and enables easy and efficient use.

Ensure that development provides landscaping that supports the amenity, attractiveness and safety of the public realm.

Ensure that development, including signs, minimises detrimental impacts on amenity, on the natural and built environment and on the safety and efficiency of roads.

Promote good urban design along and abutting transport corridors.

If you only have regard to the heading and the objective, it may not be immediately apparent that a local policy on signs belongs under this particular policy. However, if you look at the second last strategy (in bold above) this policy clearly relates to signs and allows a local policy on signs to be placed under it.

Multiple policies on a single theme

Multiple policies can be added to the one theme. If a planning scheme includes a policy that relates to student housing and another that relates to rooming houses, both of these policies can sit under clause 16.01-1 (Housing supply) as separate local policies. If there are two local policies on different activity centres then they can both sit under clause 11.03-1 (Activity centres) as separate local policies.

Numbering and labelling of policy

As regional and local policy is nested under the relevant state policy, the regional or local policy uses the same clause number as the state policy. The three tiers of policy are distinguished using the following letter codes:

  • state policy is identified with an ‘S’
  • regional policy is identified with an ‘R’
  • local policy is identified with an ‘L’.

17.04 Tourism

17.04-1S Facilitating tourism

17.04-1R Tourism – Gippsland

17.04-1L Nature-based tourism

Multiple policies at the regional or local level can be distinguished by having unique titles.

17.04 Tourism

17.04-1S Facilitating tourism

17.04-1R Tourism – Gippsland

17.04-1L Nature-based tourism

17.04-1L Tourist accommodation

Both the clause number and the title are used to identify a policy. The local planning policy heading does not need to match the corresponding state or regional planning policy heading. Tailor local policy headings to reflect the substance of the policy.

There may be multiple local or regional policies with the same clause number. Clause numbers must follow the form of local planning policy in the Planning Policy Framework as set out by the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes.

Where a planning scheme has multiple policies under one theme, sub-numbering may be used to differentiate the policies where it will support discoverability. A format using the standard policy numbering, with the addition of a numerical suffix, in the following form, should be applied where sub-numbering is sought:

12.05-2L Landscapes

12.05-2L-01 Coastal and hinterland landscapes

12.05-2L-02 Forest landscapes

12.05-2L-03 Significant landscape character areas

Place-based policies

Place-based policies can be an important part of implementing a strategic vision for an area. When assessing a permit application within a place where specific outcomes are sought, it is important to understand the wider context of the vision for the place and therefore there is a dedicated section for place-based policies in clause 11.03 (Planning for places).

An appropriate place-based policy under clause 11.03 is a policy that relates to a specific geographic location or area and seeks to comprehensively develop that place in a cohesive and multi-faceted way. It includes broad-ranging thematic policies, often for an activity centre or an urban renewal precinct or a township with a specific strategic plan such as a structure plan. The policy may include detailed policy direction relating to use, urban design, building design (including overall scale and building form), advertising signs and the like.

Clauses 11.03-1 to 11.03-5 deal with specific place types such as activity centres and growth areas. Clause 11.03-6 deals with other types of places that are not already addressed in clauses 11.03-1 to 11.03-5, such as an urban renewal precinct or township.

Use the following guidelines when preparing a placed-based policy under Clause 11.03. A place-based policy must:

  1. Apply to a specific, discrete spatial area. The area to which the policy applies must be mapped showing clear, defined boundaries.
  2. Have a common objective that is achieved using strategies that negotiate different PPF themes.
  3. Provide guidance specific to that place. If the provisions are generic and apply across multiple places or to the whole municipality, they should be located under the relevant thematic heading.
  4. Include content relating to multiple issues where there are interrelationships between those issues or interdependencies between related strategies that require an integrated policy approach to provide a coherent strategic narrative. If the policy content relates to just one or two discrete themes, these will be better located under the relevant thematic headings.
  5. Result in a clearer and simpler representation of the policy than if it were thematically distributed across the PPF, including avoiding undue repetition of a common objective.
  6. Not focus on high level strategic directions about the role of a place, as these are better located in the MPS.
  7. Not replicate content in specific controls that apply to the place, such as a Design and Development Overlay. However, there may be benefit in providing a brief cross-reference to a specific control where it would support the coherence of the policy.

Policies that are about a place but are centred on a specific theme, are not suitable to be included in clause 11.03 as a place-based policy even if they have a 'place based' title. These policies will need to be thematically distributed as they lack the multi-faceted form and inter-dependencies that would warrant inclusion in clause 11.03. For example, a policy for an industrial area that outlines preferred urban design and has some direction regarding locations for uses does not qualify for inclusion in clause 11.03. This kind of policy would need to be distributed under clause 15.01 (Built Environment) and clause 17.03 (Industry) respectively, depending on the detailed content.

The Place-based Policy Checklist at Appendix 4 is a useful checklist to help guide the application of Clause 11.03.

Avoiding over-use of Clause 11.03 will help preserve the thematic framework of the PPF and support the transparency and legibility of planning schemes.

6.4.5 Dealing with particular local policy themes

Most local policies will be easily categorised in the PPF. Some will be less obvious. This chapter looks at some major policy themes and potentially complex policy themes to explain how to best distribute them in the PPF.

Accommodation uses

Policies relating to the location and quality of particular types of housing such as student housing, group accommodation belong under Clause 16.01-1 (Housing supply). Policies on aged care facilities belong under Clause 16.01-5 (Residential aged care facilities).

Amenity, human health and safety based policies

Clause 13.07-1 (Land use compatibility) relates to the management of uses and their associated amenity, human health and safety impacts such as:

  • conflicts between uses within a zone (such as non-residential uses in residential zones or caretaker’s residences in industrial areas)
  • uses at the interfaces of different zones (such as dwellings that abut an industrial zone)
  • policies about uses with a particular focus on the kinds of amenity impacts they generate, such as licensed premises or sexually explicit entertainment venues.

Animal keeping and animal training

  • Clause 14.01-2 (Sustainable agricultural land use) accommodates policies on animal keeping and training.

Childcare centres

Policies relating to childcare centres and kindergartens can be placed under clause 19.02-2 (Education facilities).


The general policy themes relating to dams can be assigned to the following PPF clauses:

  • Water supply: policies relating to the provision of dams for the purpose of supplying water for farming belong in clause 14.01-2 (Sustainable agricultural land use).
  • Waterway function: polices ensuring that dams do not affect the function of a waterway. These policies belong in clause 12.03-1 (River and riparian corridors, waterways, lakes wetlands and billabongs).
  • Flooding: policies ensuring that dams do not create or exacerbate flooding impacts to adjoining properties belong in clause 13.03-1 (Floodplain management).
  • Erosion and landslip: policies ensuring that dams do not exacerbate erosion or cause landslips should be located in clause 13.04-2 (Erosion and landslip).

Design for rural areas

Clause 15.01-6 (Design for rural areas). This policy theme seeks to ensure that development in rural areas is consistent with and enhances the surrounding rural character. This would include policies relating to buildings in rural areas, development along tourist routes or approaches to townships and development on hilltops and ridgelines. This policy relates to design for more general rural areas. For significant landscapes or other sensitive natural areas, see clause 11.03-5 (Distinctive areas and landscapes) or clause 12.05 (Significant environments and landscapes).

Development adjacent to highways

A policy that has the specific purpose of ensuring that development adjacent to highways does not adversely affect the function of the road belongs in clause 18.01-1 (Land Use and Transport Integration).

Environmentally Sustainable Development

Environmental Sustainability Development (ESD) is addressed throughout the PPF under a range of different themes. Local policies about ESD are encouraged to be integrated into the PPF under the appropriate themes.


Policies relating to the general treatment of development within heritage areas can be located under clause 15.03-1 (Heritage conservation).

However, policies that contain statements of significance and detailed precinct-specific design guidelines cannot be accommodated within the PPF and should be located in the schedule to the Heritage Overlay.

Sealing of roads and road construction

Policies relating to the sealing of roads or road construction belong in clause 18.02-4 (Roads).


Policies relating to signs can be loosely categorised into a few types. There are policies giving guidance on the appearance of signs, policies relating to signs along major transport routes and policies relating to signs in heritage areas. These policies can be categorised within the PPF as follows:

  • Design of signs: policies that give guidance relating to the appearance of signs and the treatment of different types of signs (including road safety) belong under clause 15.01-1 (Urban design).
  • Road signs: policies relating to signs along major transport routes such as Eastlink or the Metropolitan Ring Road belong under clause 18.02-4 (Roads).
  • Signs in Heritage areas: if a sign policy solely relates to the appearance of signs within a heritage area, it can sit with clause 15.03-1 (Heritage conservation). If a policy broadly relates to the urban design aspects of a sign and has a component that relates to heritage, the policy can remain under clause 15.01-1 (Urban design).

See Appendix 5 for a more complete list showing where local policies can be located in the PPF.

6.4.6 General PPF drafting tips

Chapter 6.1 sets out useful drafting guidance for planning provisions. Some further tips relating to policy drafting are discussed below.


Most planning policies apply to decision-makers, permit applicants as well as other parties. Draft policies for the whole audience, unless the policy is targeted to a particular stakeholder.

Encourage owners of significant buildings within heritage precincts to preserve the streetscape character by…
Preserve significant buildings within heritage precincts by…
Require that potential air quality impacts, including odours and emissions are assessed. [Instruction to planners]
Demonstrate that commercial or industrial waste management practices, storage and disposal are carried out with a minimum of odour and noise disruption to nearby residential properties.
Minimise odour and noise disruption to nearby residential properties from commercial or industrial waste management practices, including storage and disposal.

In the example above, it is unclear who needs to demonstrate that the policy has been met. In the first version, while it could be presumed that the instruction is for an applicant, it could also be read as if it puts the onus on the responsible authority. The revision makes it apply evenly to the whole audience of the policy, as a planning consideration.

Advocacy and collaboration

Policy cannot stipulate promotional or collaborative actions. This is beyond the scope of the planning scheme’s influence.

Advocate for the protection of the environment.
Work with the state government to develop a coordinated plan for the Gumnut corridor urban renewal precinct.


Procedures or future actions are not policy. Do not use the PPF to prescribe processes and actions.

Encourage appropriate assessment methods to achieve environmentally sustainable design outcomes.
Define a township boundary for all towns that identifies the current extent of the township and accommodates future growth.[Further strategic work]

Word choice

Accurate word choice is critical to providing clear direction.

Be mindful when using terms such as:

  • Appropriate
  • Ensure
  • Best practice
  • Consider
  • Recognise
  • Acknowledge
  • Which or that
  • High quality
Encourage appropriate development in the Eucalyptus Way Precinct.
Encourage development of up to four stories in the Eucalyptus Way Precinct.
Set buildings fronting Eucalyptus Way back from the street frontage to allow for the planting of canopy trees.
Ensure front fences and gates provide an appropriate level of privacy and security.

Avoid using vague adjectives such as ‘adequate’, ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ in isolation of an explanation of what is adequate etc.

Ensure non-residential uses do not cause amenity impacts to adjoining and nearby dwellings.
Minimise impacts from non-residential uses on the amenity of adjoining and nearby dwellings.
Ensure all areas for waste collection facilities are screened from the street and adjoining residential properties.

Be careful with the term ‘ensure’ – only use the term when the outcome can be ensured.

'Best practice'

‘Best practice’ distinguishes a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved by other means. It is used as a benchmark. Avoid using the term unless a best practice has been suitably established and is properly understood and articulated in the planning system.

In policy, it is more useful to simply set out what is sought to be achieved, whether best practice or otherwise. This leaves a reader in no doubt about the outcome being sought.

'Consider', 'Recognise' and 'Acknowledge'
Recognise the existing character of Sugarplum Boulevard.
Support development that respects the existing low-scale, uniform character of Sugarplum Boulevard.
Consider whether there is a need to consolidate land in the same ownership if it is considered that the consolidation would facilitate the productive use of rural land.
Encourage the consolidation of land in the same ownership if the consolidation would facilitate the productive use of rural land.

Use more directive wording in place of terms like ‘consider’, ‘recognise’ or ‘acknowledge’, which are open to misinterpretation and give little guidance.

‘Which’ or ‘That’
Discourage signs which obscure major view lines.
Discourage signs that obscure major view lines.

If a policy:

  • Does not need the latter part of the sentence, use ‘which’ – i.e. where it only provides added context or may be read as a digression.
  • Does need the latter part of the sentence, use ‘that’ (the effect of the policy would be different without it – for example, by having a broader effect).

The example above demonstrates how the use of ‘which’ or ‘that’ may change the effect of a policy. The council’s intent was to discourage only those signs having the effect of obscuring major view lines, not all signs.

‘High quality’
Provide high-quality building facades.
Provide high-quality building facades made from durable and attractive materials and finishes that complement surrounding buildings and provide visual interest.

When seeking ‘high-quality’ outcomes, be more directive about what the term means in the context of the policy.

Narrowed focus
Avoid incremental incursions into environmentally sensitive areas beyond the boundaries of land reserved future for urban development.

Be careful when adding words that inadvertently narrow the focus of a policy. In the example above, adding the word ‘incremental’ narrows the policy to just incremental incursions when in this instance, any incursion should be avoided.

Colloquial and promotional language

Keep language simple and professional and avoid casual or popular conversational language or terms that are uncertain. For example, where a policy seeks to make a place ‘colourful’, ‘exciting’, ‘vibrant’, ‘cosmopolitan’ or ‘green’, or where you may seek ‘statement’ design. Using too many abstract terms makes your writing vague and your message unclear.

Information requirements

Matters such as information requirements or ‘application requirements’ are not statements of policy and do not form part of the PPF. Most overlays provide for matters such as locally defined objectives, decision guidelines and application requirements to be set out in a schedule.

Information requirements are best recast as policy.

For example:

Provide a traffic impact assessment where there is a material traffic impact.
Minimise material traffic impacts.
Require an application for demolition to be supported with documentation which demonstrates:
  • That the demolition will contribute to the long-term conservation of the building fabric.
  • That the demolition involves the removal of later uncomplimentary modifications.
  • That the cultural heritage significance of the place will be enhanced.
Support demolition where it:
  • Contributes to the long-term conservation of the building fabric.
  • Involves the removal of later uncomplimentary modifications.
  • Enhances the heritage significance of the place.

Once the basis for a local policy is established in the PPF (i.e. a matter to be considered or an outcome being sought), an application checklist outside of the planning scheme can be used to supplement the local policy. The checklist could include a list of any information that may be required for an applicant to demonstrate that they have complied with the policy.

6.4.7  Regional policies

In addition to local planning policy, the Minister may include state planning policy in the form of a statewide policy or regional policy.

A regional planning policy may be applied for matters of state or regional significance, where a unified policy response across municipal boundaries is warranted. The land affected by a regional policy does not need to be contiguous.

Regional policies cannot be used for the purpose of introducing common policies of local significance across multiple planning schemes.

6.5 How to write a schedule

6.5.1 What a schedule does

In addition to the local policy content in the MPS and the PPF, a schedule is a means of including local content in a planning scheme. By providing local context and local refinement, a schedule can ‘fine tune’ a planning provision to align it more effectively to local circumstances and local planning objectives.

6.5.2 When can a schedule be included?

A schedule must be included in a planning scheme where the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes makes provision for it. If there is no local content proposed for the schedule, the words ‘No content’ must be inserted to make it clear that there is no content intended for that particular matter.

A schedule must always use the format set out in the Ministerial Direction.

If the Ministerial Direction does not provide for a schedule, a schedule cannot be included.

6.5.3 Good practice for drafting a schedule

A schedule should communicate clearly to the user by being technically accurate, easy to interpret and easy to apply. To write a good schedule requires a clear understanding of:

  • the planning objective being sought
  • the extent to which the parent provision needs to be augmented by the schedule to achieve the planning objective
  • the requirements for schedules set out in the Ministerial Direction
  • writing in plain English.

Whatever task the schedule is performing, consider the guidelines set out below.

  • A schedule must be read with other planning controls.
  • The local content in a schedule should help to implement a planning objective.
  • The local content in a schedule should be strategically justified.
  • The purpose of a local requirement must be clear.
  • The local content in a schedule can only do what the parent provision enables.
  • The local content in a schedule should not duplicate other provisions.
  • the local content in a schedule should have a legally certain meaning.
  • The local content in a schedule should be easy to read.

These guidelines are explained below.

A schedule must be read with other planning controls

A schedule adds to the parent control that it is derived from. It is essential to understand the parent control before writing a schedule. Reading a schedule in isolation, or reading other controls without reading a relevant schedule, will give an incomplete picture of the provisions of the scheme.

The local content in a schedule should help to implement a planning objective.

Schedules are a key tool to adapt the provisions of zones and overlays to implement strategies contained in the PPF.

Schedule provisions should have a strategic justification in the MPS or PPF and must not conflict with policy objectives. Some clauses in the PPF contain specific guidance that the content in a schedule must be consistent with.

Before drafting a schedule, look at the relevant policy objectives and strategies. Ask how they can best be implemented and whether they need the specific controls of a schedule. A local policy in the PPF may be an appropriate alternative. See Rule 2 at Chapter 4.2 and Rule 4 at Chapter 4.3.

The local content in a schedule should be strategically justified

Local content in schedules can change the provisions in a scheme if the ‘parent provision’ enables this to happen and there is sufficient strategic justification.

For example, a schedule to the Design and Development Overlay can specify that a permit is not required to construct a building or construct or carry out works because clause 43.02-2 in the Design and Development Overlay specifically allows for this.

Such changes must have a strategic justification. The planning authority must be able to demonstrate that the change that they propose addresses clearly identified planning objectives. See Rule 2 at Chapter 4.2.

Changes should be enabling rather than prescriptive. The creation of a new discretion or the removal of a permit requirement where proposals of a particular type meet defined planning objectives can be valid uses of a schedule. The use of a schedule to prohibit use or development allowed by the ‘parent provision’ will seldom be justified. See Rule 4 at Chapter 4.3.

The purpose of a local requirement must be clear

A requirement of a schedule must be capable of achieving the planning outcomes sought by the ‘parent provision’ and the objectives or purposes of the schedule. A requirement that cannot measurably achieve the planning outcome sought by the ‘parent provision’ or the schedule should be avoided. See Rule 6 at Chapter 4.3.

Schedules can use a range of requirements such as performance standards, decision guidelines, application requirements, exemptions and the need for plans or conditions on approvals. One type of requirement may better achieve the planning outcomes of a ‘parent provision’ and the schedule than others.

The local content in a schedule can only do what the parent provision enables

A schedule can only do the tasks enabled by its ‘parent provision’. Using a schedule for a function not provided for in the parent provision is beyond the power of the schedule. See Rule 5 at Chapter 4.3.

Generally, zones control use and development while overlays control only development; however, there are some exceptions to this. The parent provision may restrict the scope of the schedule to only specified aspects of use or development. For example, in the Industrial 1 Zone, the only matter able to be managed by a schedule arises from the condition relating to ‘Office’ in the table of uses, which enables a schedule to specify a maximum leasable floor area.

Read the parent provision carefully to identify the scope of the schedule and ensure that the schedule is consistent.

The local content in a schedule should not duplicate other provisions

When drafting a schedule, the other provisions that apply to the affected area should be considered with care. If they contain controls that already meet the planning objectives for the area, the schedule should not duplicate these. See Rule 3 at Chapter 4.2.

The local content in a schedule should have a legally certain meaning

Take care when writing a schedule to use terms consistent with their meaning in the Act, the Interpretation of Legislation Act 1984 and clause 73 of the planning scheme. See Rule 7 at Chapter 4.4.

Terms that are not defined in the planning scheme or legislation take their ordinary meanings as defined in the Macquarie Dictionary. A local provision should not create a specific local definition. Using a term that is new to the scheme may make the meaning of a schedule uncertain, causing dispute, delay and expense if the term has to be legally interpreted. Always check that the dictionary meaning of an undefined term aligns with the intention of the provision.

The local content in a schedule should be easy to read

Schedules should be drafted using the plain English guidance set out at Chapter 6.1. See Rule 8 and Rule 9 at Chapter 4.4.

6.5.4 What can a schedule do?

An overview of the various tasks that a schedule can perform is provided below.

Use controls

Some schedules allow a planning authority to specify particular requirements about how land may be used. Schedules to zones typically fall into this category. The requirements can range from setting maximum leasable floor areas for specific uses to creating a table of uses. Examples of schedules that allow the planning authority to specify permit and other requirements for the use of land include the commercial, industrial and rural zones and the special purpose zones.

Subdivision controls

Some schedules allow a planning authority to specify particular requirements about how land may be subdivided, such as including a minimum lot size. Examples of this type of schedule include the rural zones.

Buildings and works controls

Many schedules allow a planning authority to specify particular requirements about how land may be developed. These schedules can be used to exempt certain forms of development from the need for a permit or to require a permit for certain forms of development. Examples of this type of schedule include the Farming Zone and the Development Plan Overlay.

Sign controls

A small number of schedules allow the planning authority to determine sign requirements for a parcel of land or particular land-use activity. The schedule to the Urban Floodway Zone, Special Use Zone, and Design and Development Overlay are examples of this type of schedule.

Statements of significance, objectives and decision guidelines

Some schedules enable the local definition of statements of significance, objectives or decision guidelines for particular areas. These schedules provide the greatest opportunity to adapt the basic provisions of a zone or overlay to recognise the special characteristics of an area. They can also cause confusion to planning scheme users and be easily misinterpreted or be inconsistent with state policy if poorly written. Examples of schedules that allow the planning authority to specify statements of significance, objectives and decision guidelines include the Environmental Significance Overlay, Vegetation Protection Overlay and Significant Landscape Overlay.

Information about the scheme

The schedules to clauses 71 and 72 can also provide information about a planning scheme, such as its contents, the name of the responsible authority, the scheme area, scheme maps and incorporated and background documents.

Special tasks

Some special functions are also carried out by schedules, such as the prohibition of gaming machines in a specific shopping complex or shopping centres under clause 52.28.

6.5.5 Schedule names and numbers

Schedule names

The Ministerial Direction - The Form and Content of Planning Schemes makes provision for each local schedule to include a unique name. The name can help to identify the geographical scope of the schedule. For example, a schedule to the Environmental Significance Overlay could be called the ‘BRISBANE RANGES’ schedule. A name can also encapsulate the objective that the schedule serves. For example, a schedule in the Vegetation Protection Overlay could be called the ‘COASTAL HEATH PROTECTION’ schedule. The name should be short and descriptive. It should not include the word ‘OVERLAY’.

Schedule numbers

The Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes enables some zones and overlays to have more than one schedule. For these zones and overlays, every schedule must be given a number, even if only one schedule is provided. It is recorded in the scheme and on the maps with the appropriate designation followed by its number. For example, Schedule 1 to the Special Use Zone is shown as SUZ1. Schedule 4 to the Vegetation Protection Overlay is shown as VPO4.

Where a provision is only able to have one schedule, the schedule is not numbered.

6.5.6 Using tables in a schedule

Defining land areas and specifying conditions

Where specified, tables can be used in schedules to define particular land and specify requirements that relate to the land.

Where the land area is large or includes multiple parcels, a written description is likely to be complex and difficult to understand. It is preferable to include a map in the schedule.

See Chapter 6.5.14 for more about using a map in a schedule. See Chapter 6.4 for general advice about using a map.

Tables of uses

Schedules to the special purpose zones enable the planning authority to construct tables of uses. Like tables of uses in zones, schedule tables divide land uses into three sections and provide for the inclusion of conditions.

  • Section 1 – Permit not required – Uses should only be made ‘as-of-right’ (permit not required) by inclusion in Section 1 of the table of uses where they address the purpose of the schedule and are unlikely to require later detailed appraisal or cause significant off-site impacts or conflicts.
  • Section 2 – Permit required – Other uses should normally fall within Section 2, enabling the responsible authority to exercise discretion. Where a land use term is not listed in the table, it is automatically in Section 2 and can be the subject of a permit application.
  • Section 3 – Prohibited – Uses should only be prohibited where they conflict with, or are irrelevant to, the purpose of the schedule and the consideration of permit applications would consequently waste the resources of the proponent and the responsible authority.

Tables of uses must use the land use terms and follow the nesting diagrams in clause 73. If the head of a nested group of land use terms is intended to be a Section 2 use and there are no exemptions anywhere else in the table, then it does not need to be listed.

Conditions can be used to fine tune a defined land use term. If a condition is included opposite a term, the table can also specify what happens if the condition is not met. For example, a condition in Section 1 may specify that there must be only one ‘Dependent person’s unit’ on a residential lot. The use would only need to be mentioned in Section 2 if a further condition was proposed. If it is intended that the use be prohibited if the Section 1 condition is not met, the use must be listed in Section 3 with the provision ‘– if the Section 1 condition is not met’.

Where a schedule contains a table of uses, the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes sets out a number of requirements. Several drafting conventions help to make the meaning of a table more certain.

See the example below for some writing and formatting advice.

See description below.
Example schedule

6.5.7 Setting minimum and maximum floor areas

Some schedules allow the planning authority to specify a maximum leasable floor area for specific uses or minimum areas or setbacks. These provisions have a valid use to support strategic objectives, for example, to safeguard the function of an established office node in a commercial area. However, the use of any such provision should have a strategic justification in the MPS or PPF.

A provision should not act as a prohibition (implied or otherwise) on a use without satisfactory justification.

6.5.8 Statements of significance

Some schedules to overlays require a statement to be inserted. For example, the Environmental Significance Overlay requires ‘a statement of environmental significance’ and the Vegetation Protection Overlay requires ‘a statement of the nature and significance of the vegetation to be protected’.

These statements are intended to summarise the essential elements that define the significance of the overlay area.

Where possible, the statement should be based on study findings that clearly demonstrate the values that make the area special, and show how those values relate to the purposes of the chosen overlay. For example, a landscape study might provide the analysis from which to draw the statement for the schedule to the Significant Landscape Overlay.

It may be appropriate to reference such studies as background documents, but it should not be necessary to refer to them in order to understand what the real significance of the place is. The reader of a statement should be able to understand why an area is special from the statement alone.

Statements of significance in the Heritage Overlay

While the Heritage Overlay (HO) can apply a wide range of controls to heritage places, it does not establish the significance of any particular heritage place. Any new heritage place included in the schedule to the Heritage Overlay must have a statement of significance specified in the schedule. If an existing heritage place has a statement of significance it may be specified in the schedule but it is not required. If detailed heritage design guidelines have been prepared for a heritage place they may be specified in the schedule. Any statement of significance or heritage design guidelines that are specified in the schedule must also be incorporated into the scheme in the schedule to Clause 72.04.

6.5.9 Objectives

Some schedules require objectives to be inserted. These objectives are specific aims or ambitions for the use, development, management or conservation of an identified area. The objectives apply in addition to any objectives elsewhere in the scheme.

Schedule objectives flow from three sources:

  • the objectives and strategies of local content in the MPS and PPF
  • the purpose of the zone or overlay
  • where one is present, the statement of significance in the overlay.

Objectives are key to the interpretation and application of the discretion created by the zone or overlay. All decisions will be tested against them.

An objective should begin with the infinitive form of the verb.  For example:

To promote the appropriate reuse of historic commercial buildings.

A good objective will:

  • avoid what is self-evident and go beyond bland statements that nobody can disagree with
  • point the way to decision outcomes
  • not be an outcome itself, but be achievable by a variety of outcomes
  • respond to significance with local distinctiveness
  • be grounded in reality, not wishful thinking
  • not contradict or confuse other objectives in the planning scheme
  • express one idea only, not a complex set of ideas.

A schedule may need to refer to more than one idea in its objectives. To do this, include multiple objectives rather than have a single complex objective. Alternatively, two separate schedules, each with clear objectives may be a better solution.

6.5.10 Permit requirements

Permit requirements in a schedule should supplement those in the other provisions that apply to the land.

Permit requirements in a schedule may state that a permit is required. For example, the schedules to the rural zones state that a permit is required for certain buildings or works above thresholds specified in the zones.

Permit requirements can also state that a permit is not required. For example, the public land zones state that a permit is not required to use land, to construct a building or to carry out works provided that any condition in the schedule is complied with.

Some schedules create an additional permit requirement, where there was none before. This is sometimes referred to as ‘scheduling in’. Such a requirement can add to the permit requirements of the other provisions applying to the land. It can also remove all or part of the exemptions from a permit for minor works set out in Clause 62.02-2. This ability is particularly relevant to environmental management overlays. If land has a particular character or significance that justifies the application of the overlay and is reflected in its objectives, then buildings or works that may not meet the overlay objectives should always require a permit.

Alternatively, some schedules remove the need for a permit in circumstances where the other provisions applying to the land contain a permit requirement, making a proposal as of right. This is sometimes referred to as ‘scheduling out’. It can be a useful method of locally defining a performance basis for decision making on a particular theme or area in a planning scheme. A schedule can define objectives and conditions to be met. If a proposal meets these, it can be exempted from the need for a permit. Scheduling out removes the political and community accountability that would normally apply to a use or development. It should not be used in cases where the planning authority takes the view that the loss of this accountability would give rise to significant issues of third party or community conflict or detriment.

Care should be taken to ensure that where a schedule can ‘schedule in’ or ‘schedule out’ permit requirements, the schedule is consistent with this structure. For example, if a permit requirement is to be ‘scheduled in’, the permit requirement should only identify those uses or developments that require a permit, rather than applying a blanket permit requirement and then setting out a list of exempted uses and development.

Any permit requirement, or exemption from a permit requirement, included in a schedule must be clearly capable of achieving the objectives or purposes of the zone or overlay or its schedule. A permit requirement or exemption that cannot be objectively and measurably linked to achieving the desired planning outcome should not be used.

6.5.11 Decision guidelines

Many schedules can include additional decision guidelines that require the responsible authority to give specific consideration to a particular issue or fact in addition to any relevant decision guidelines elsewhere in the scheme.

A decision guideline should be ‘neutral’ and set a ‘test’ for the decision, not the answer.

Whether the siting, height and appearance of a building or works detrimentally affect the landscape qualities of the area
The impact of the development on coastal scenic vantage points. [This does not provide guidance for a decision.]

Decision guidelines should relate to the schedule objectives that they serve and any statement of significance, if one is present. They may refer to a document but only if the document is incorporated in the scheme. A decision guideline should not refer to a background document.

A decision guideline should not include an informal referral requirement.

The views of the Central Coastal Board.

6.5.12 Referral requirements

Schedules to overlays that respond to particular technical requirements such as the safeguarding of airports (Airport Environs Overlay) or earth  resources (State Resource Overlay) can include specific referral or notice requirements for applications. These referral and notice requirements are also specified in Clause 66 and local referral and notice requirements must be specified in the schedules to Clause 66. See Chapter 5.4 for more information about referrals.

6.5.13 Signs

Some schedules enable the sign provisions that apply to land to be varied. This should be done only if the existing sign provisions do not respond to the purpose of the zone or overlay, or any zone or overlay objectives.

6.5.14 Maps in schedules

Where land is defined in a schedule, unless a clear and succinct description of the land can be given in words, a map should normally be used to define it. If there is already a map in the scheme that defines the land the schedule can refer to this. Where a new map is required, this should normally be on a scaled map base and should show distinctive or named geographic features that enable the land to be identified with certainty. The use of diagrammatic or sketch maps can lead to uncertainty.

There are four ways of using a map to define land in a schedule:

  • If multiple schedules to an overlay can be used, the overlay on the planning scheme map must be annotated to show that it relates to a particular schedule. For example, Schedules 1 to 4 to the Vegetation Protection Overlay are shown as VPO1 to VPO4 on the map. Further mapping will not be needed. Where possible, this is the preferred method of mapping schedules.
  • If only one schedule can be used but the schedule applies different controls to different parcels of land, the geographical scope of the schedule can be mapped on the planning scheme map and a separate map, showing the ‘break down’ of where the different controls apply, can be included in the body of the schedule. This separate map should be headed ‘Map (number) to the Schedule to clause (number)’ and placed into the schedule after the last text. It does not need to be referred to as an incorporated document in Clause 72.04 of the scheme.
  • Alternatively, the planning scheme map can be annotated to show that different controls in a schedule apply to different parcels of land. For example, different height controls applied to four different areas in a schedule to the Design and Development Overlay are shown as DDO1-A1, DDO1-A2, DDO1-A3 and DDO1-A4.
  • If none of these methods can be used, a map to a schedule can be an incorporated document. If a map is an incorporated document, the schedule must refer to it as such.

See Chapter 6.2 for advice about using a map.

6.5.15 Requiring a plan

Some schedules to special use zones and built form overlays allow the incorporation of, or reference to, a plan and may specify particular issues that the plan must address. Some determine whether a permit can be granted for development that is not in accordance with the plan. Some provide for proposals that comply with the plan to be exempt from normal notice and appeal rights.

Zones or overlays that do not specifically provide for the incorporation of or reference to a plan should not be used for this purpose where a more appropriate zone or overlay exists.

6.5.16 Conditions and requirements for permits

Some schedules can include conditions or requirements that a planning permit or class of planning permits must contain. This can be useful where the schedule has been applied to deal with a site or development that involves a wide range of uses. Conditions applying to particular uses in particular locations can assist in reducing or eliminating concerns at the boundary with another sensitive use. For example, conditions could relate to noise emissions or hours of operation, where commercial premises are proposed to be located next to a future residential area.

6.6 How to apply external documents

Planning schemes may reference particular studies, strategies and guideline documents to direct decision making, affect the scheme’s operation or provide background to provisions. This can be achieved by incorporating documents into the planning scheme or using background documents.

It is important to avoid inclusion of external documents wherever possible to keep schemes user-friendly and self-contained. Provisions should ideally be drafted to be stand-alone and not rely on external documents. In most instances, it is preferable to extract relevant decision making content from a document and insert that information directly into the scheme.

Incorporated documents and background documents each play a different role in planning. Careful consideration should be given to the status given to a document in a planning scheme. How to use incorporated and background documents is discussed below in Chapters 6.6.1 and 6.6.2.

Incorporated documents are introduced into the planning scheme by way of a planning scheme amendment. This usually occurs as part of an amendment that introduces the corresponding policy or provisions. Background documents are also introduced by way of an amendment but they are not incorporated, rather they are just referenced.

If a document is updated or is no longer relevant, the planning scheme must also be updated to be consistent. The explanatory report for the amendment should make clear what has changed from the earlier version of the document and should confirm the proposed status of the document.

Webtools are not ‘documents’ and are not assigned an incorporated or background document status. Webtools differ from documents in the planning system in that they may include changeable content and are dependent on electronic software for computations. Webtools in planning schemes cannot provide mandatory controls (as is possible with an incorporated document). A webtool may be referenced in a planning scheme as a non-statutory tool, such as part of a policy guideline or decision guideline instead of using a document when:

  • The content is more effectively addressed in a webtool over a document.
  • It performs a function beyond the scope of a static document.
  • The content relies on an interactive format (for example, calculators or assessment tools such as Melbourne Water’s STORM calculator).
  • It is made available online.

6.6.1 How to incorporate a document

What is an incorporated document?

An incorporated document is a document that needs to be read in conjunction with the planning scheme for the effect of the scheme to be understood.

An incorporated document carries the same weight as the other parts of the planning scheme. As part of the planning scheme, the planning authority can only change an incorporated document by a planning scheme amendment.

When should a document be incorporated?

Where possible, avoid incorporating documents. This keeps the scheme self-contained and makes it easier to use. It is always preferable to extract the specific planning requirements from a document and state them directly in the scheme.

The decision to incorporate a document should only be considered when there is no suitable alternative in the scheme to achieve the required outcome. For example, a document should not be incorporated to specify requirements where an existing provision of the scheme enables requirements to be specified.

A document should be incorporated if the document is:

  • Essential to the administration or enforcement of the planning scheme, that is, without the document the scheme cannot be properly understood. The Code of Practice for Timber Production is an example.
  • Necessary to determine the extent of a planning control or whether planning permission is required. The Code of Practice for Telecommunications Facilities in Victoria is an example. Without this document, it is not possible to tell whether a permit is required for a telecommunications facility or not.
  • Required to be incorporated under an Act, a Ministerial Direction (including the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes) or a specific planning provision, such as an incorporated plan under the Incorporated Plan Overlay.
  • A statement of significance under the Heritage Overlay (see Chapter 6.5.8).

How is a document incorporated in the scheme?

A document is only incorporated in the scheme if it is specifically listed in clause 72.04 or the schedule to clause 72.04. If a document is not listed in clause 72.04 it is not an incorporated document, even if it is mentioned elsewhere in the scheme.

Naming an incorporated document

When preparing an incorporated document, always include the details of the author and a publication date (including month and year) as part of the colophon or copyright-page. Avoid maintaining a different date for a document in the title of an amended document. If a version history is required, this can be listed as part of the colophon or copyright-page.

Referring to an incorporated document

To refer to an incorporated document, use the following format and include the document title, author and date of publication/creation (including month and year):

Shadow Bay Statement of Significance (Gumnut City Council, 2018)

Where the publication date is not known, the council’s adoption date should be cited, for example:

Shadow Bay Statement of Significance (Gumnut City Council, Adopted February 2018)

Do not include terms that seek to provide for alternative versions – for example, ‘as amended from time to time’, ‘as revised’ or ‘as updated’.

When referring to a document that has been amended, cite the date of the latest version of the document, and not the original date. The date is mentioned once, as shown below, irrespective of the date being part of the document title.

Red Gum River Valley Design Guidelines 2019 (Wattle Bay City Council, Revised March 2023)
Red Gum River Valley Design Guidelines (Wattle Bay City Council, March 2023)

If a document has already been referenced by the VPP it does not have to be referenced again at the local level.

A planning scheme amendment is required to include a document in clause 72.04 or to change an included incorporated document.

To make the incorporated document list easier to use, the schedule to clause 72.04 should be compiled alphabetically.

What sort of documents can be incorporated?

Where possible, it is better to extract the specific planning policy or decision requirements from a document and include them directly in the scheme as local planning policy, local schedule provisions or decision guidelines rather than incorporating a document. This is particularly so if only part of the document is relevant or where the document is not written in a way that suitably expresses specific requirements for planning decisions.

However, if the document includes content that is lengthy, is large in size or complex it may be better as an incorporated document.

Incorporated documents need to be in a suitable form to be made available online including that:

  • there is no copyright infringement that would prevent publication online (such as artwork that might be copyright even though the document is not)
  • there is no privacy issue
  • the document is prepared from an original and not scanned (to improve quality and reduce file size)
  • the document supports text recognition and is searchable
  • the document is accessible for a screen reader (or an accessible Word version is also provided)
  • the file size is kept as small as possible.

A document that is not publicly available should not be incorporated. Also avoid seeking to incorporate documents such as Australian Standards that are difficult or expensive for a casual user to access. In such cases, it may be possible to extract and reproduce the relevant information (as with AS3959 in the bushfire provisions at clause 53.02) or it may be sufficient for a document to take the form of a background document.

What are the planning authority’s obligations with an incorporated document?

An incorporated document must have its strategic basis substantiated as part of a planning scheme amendment process and have been through a public consultation process, before it is incorporated in the planning scheme by way of an amendment.

Once incorporated, the document must be publicly available for inspection with the planning scheme and made available on the planning authority’s web page.

Statewide incorporated documents are available on the department’s website.

6.6.2 How to refer to a background document

What is a background document?

A background document provides information that helps to understand why a particular policy or provision has been included in the planning scheme. Background documents were previously referred to as ‘reference documents’.

A background document is not part of the planning scheme and must not be directly relied on for decision making. If a background document contains content that is necessary for decision making (such as strategies or decision guidelines) then these must be extracted and placed in the relevant policy or control.

When should a document be mentioned as a background document?

If a document gives useful information that will help a user understand the planning scheme, it may be suitable for mention as a background document. These documents are however most relevant at the planning scheme amendment stage and are generally not needed at the decision making stage. As with incorporated documents, avoid referencing background documents wherever possible to keep the scheme user-friendly and self-contained.

A background document can explain why a particular policy or provision is in the planning scheme. For example, a flora and fauna study that documents the reasons for applying an Environmental Significance Overlay may be usefully referenced as the basis for the statement of environmental significance in the overlay.

A background document must relate directly to a specific policy or provision. A document that includes a lot of information that is not directly relevant to the specific provision of the scheme will not generally be suitable for mention as a background document.

Do not make a document a background document if the substantive elements of the document have been included in the scheme and require no further explanation.

Avoid general references to a type or source of document, including under policy documents in the PPF. Instead, if needed, name the actual documents that informed the policy.

How is a document made a background document?

A background document is one that is referred to in the planning scheme but is not incorporated under clause 72.04.

To refer to a background document, use the same format prescribed for an incorporated document in Chapter 6.6.1 above.

A planning scheme amendment is required to amend a background document reference.

Where a background document has directly informed the creation of a provision, then it may be referenced directly by that provision as well as being listed in the clause 72.08 schedule. Where a background document has informed numerous provisions, such as a regional growth plan or a housing strategy, then the document only needs to be listed in the clause 72.08 or its schedule rather than being repetitively referenced throughout a series of provisions. If a document has already been referenced by the VPP, it does not have to be referenced again at the local level in a policy or a schedule.

To make the background document list easier to use, the schedule to clause 72.08 should be compiled alphabetically.


This publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.

Page last updated: 19/04/24