Planning schemes are legal documents prepared by the local council or the Minister for Planning, and approved by the Minister. They contain policies and provisions that control land use and development.
Land and groups affected by planning schemes
Planning schemes can apply to all private and public land in Victoria. A planning scheme is generally binding on all people and corporations, on every Minister, government department, public authority and local council.
Some exemptions do apply. These relate to existing use rights, exemptions declared under Section 16 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987, Commonwealth land and permanently reserved Crown land.
Administration of planning schemes
The administration and enforcement of a planning scheme is the duty of a responsible authority. In most cases this will be a local council, but it can be the Minister administering the Planning and Environment Act 1987 or any other Minister or public authority specified in the scheme.
Changes to the planning scheme may be made by both the Minister for Planning and the local council (and some government authorities).
The role of the Minister
From time to time, the Minister for Planning issues directions to planning authorities about the preparation of planning schemes and amendments to planning schemes. These help to ensure that planning schemes are prepared in a consistent and technically correct way.
The Minister can also, in certain circumstances, intervene on matters associated with planning and heritage processes, for example amending a planning scheme.
These powers are provided for under the Planning and Environment Act 1987, the Heritage Act 1995 and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998.
More information on the role of the Minister
The Act requires the responsible authority and municipal council, and anybody else specified by the Minister to maintain an up-to-date copy of the planning scheme, including all amendments to it and documents referred to in the scheme. The scheme and any accompanying documentation must be made available free of charge for public inspection during office hours.
Planning scheme structure
Planning schemes consist of:
- maps, which show how land is affected by zones and overlays
- an ordinance, which sets out the written requirements of a scheme, including state and local policies and the types of use or development which needs a permit (usually determined through a zone and /or overlay)
- particular provisions which include provisions for specific topics (such as car parking)
- general provisions
- incorporated documents - such as the Code of Practice for Private Tennis Court Development.
Zones reflect the primary character of land, such as residential, industrial or rural, and indicate the type of use which may be appropriate in that zone.Sometimes, local areas have special planning controls (known as overlays), such as areas of significant vegetation or special heritage significance. These controls are in addition to the zone controls and ensure that important aspects of the land are recognised.
Victoria Planning Provisions
The Planning and Environment Act 1987 distinguishes between the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) and a planning scheme.The Victoria Planning Provisions is a document containing a comprehensive set of planning provisions for Victoria. It is not a planning scheme and does not apply to any land. It is a statewide reference, used as required, to construct planning schemes.
The planning authority (usually the local council) must provide the local planning policy content, including a Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS), and select the appropriate zones and overlays from the VPP, for inclusion in their planning scheme. The VPP also has references to a number of incorporated documents. Some parts of the VPP, such as state policies, are included in every planning scheme.
When any provision in the VPP is amended, all planning schemes containing that provision are also amended. Only the Minister for Planning can amend the VPP.
See planning scheme structure for more information about the VPP.
Local planning provisions
Planning scheme content specific to the local area (local provisions) is contained in the Municipal Strategic Statement, local policies and schedules and is displayed in Planning Schemes Online.
Change a planning scheme
Councils can decide to amend a planning scheme to achieve a desirable planning outcome or to support a new policy direction. The process for changing a planning scheme must be followed exactly and involves anyone who may have an interest in the amendment, or be affected by it.
A planning scheme can only be changed by a formal amendment process. An amendment can make changes to all planning schemes in Victoria at once, a group of planning schemes, or only one planning scheme. All amendments must be approved by the Minister for Planning.