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What are the urban design guidelines?

The Victorian State Government developed the urban design guidelines for Victoria to support state agencies, local government and the urban development sector to deliver, functional and enjoyable places for people to live, work, and spend leisure time.

The guidelines aim to create neighbourhoods that foster community interaction and make it easy for people of all ages and abilities to live healthy lifestyles and engage in regular physical activity. These places may be urban areas in metropolitan Melbourne and in regional cities and towns.

What do the guidelines aim to achieve?

The guidelines assist in creating places that are:

  • accessible, safe, diverse and provide choice
  • enjoyable, engaging and comfortable to be in and move around
  • conducive to people being more physically active
  • accommodating of people of all abilities, ages and cultures
  • distinctive and celebrate their social, cultural and natural heritage.

Why we need urban design guidelines

High quality places support the social, cultural, economic and environmental wellbeing of our communities, and are critical to the development of competitive and efficient cities and towns.

New development and changes in land uses should respond to their context and enhance places of value to the community. Good urban design delivers places that are safe, healthy, functional and enjoyable.

What is urban design?

In these guidelines, urban design focuses on the design of the public realm, its public spaces, streets, parks and paths. Urban design informs the design of infrastructure and buildings in as far as they affect the function and amenity of the public realm.

Scope and statutory role of the Urban Design Guidelines for Victoria

The Urban Design Guidelines for Victoria are policy guidelines within the State Planning Policy Framework of the Victoria Planning Provisions. The guidelines must be considered when assessing the design and built form of new development where relevant.

The guidelines use best practice knowledge and advice underpinned by sound evidence.

When to use the guidelines

Decisions affecting the public realm

The guidelines assist decision making and are intended for use by those initiating urban development and public realm works, by those assessing or reviewing development proposals for planning in so far as they affect the public realm, and by members of the public who have an interest in urban development and public realm design.

Investing in the public realm

The guidelines may be used to inform strategic investment in community infrastructure and public realm assets. The guidelines may also be used to develop area specific urban design policies and frameworks.

Applying the guidelines in context

In applying the guidelines, designers and decision-makers need to determine the relevance of the specific guideline in the context of the proposed development.

However, there may be ways to achieve the objectives other than through the responses described in these guidelines.

Where designers believe that a guideline should not apply, they should be able to express clear reasons why this is so and put forward an alternative way to meet the objective

Urban Design Charter for Victoria

The Urban Design Charter is our commitment to making cities and towns in Victoria more liveable through good urban design.

Charter principles

The charter identifies the principles below as essential qualities for the functioning of good public environments that are valued and significant for those who use them.


Organise places so their parts relate well to each other.


Provide ease, safety and choice of access for all people.


Help people to understand how places work and to find their way around.


Stimulate activity and a sense of vitality in public places.

Fit and function

Support the intended uses of spaces while also allowing for their adaptability.

Complementary mixed uses

integrate complementary activities to promote synergies between them.

Sense of place

Recognise and enhance the qualities that give individual places a valued identity.

Consistency and variety

Balance order and diversity in the interests of appreciating both.

Continuity and change

Maintain a sense of place and time by embracing change while respecting heritage values.


Design spaces that minimise risks of personal harm and support safe behaviour.

Sensory pleasure

Create spaces that engage the senses and delight the mind.

Inclusiveness and interaction

Create places where all people are free to encounter each other as equals.


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Page last updated: 09/06/23