Banner image: Buffers and Separation Distances


Land use buffers can help manage the location and siting of:

  • industries
  • incompatible uses (e.g. residential development)

to minimise land use conflict.

Inappropriate land use and development within buffers can affect the safety, health and amenity of communities and constrain the operation of industries, including critical infrastructure.

Informed by experts and public consultation, DELWP examined options to improve the way buffers are planned for in the planning system. The Victoria Planning Provisions were updated by Amendment VC175 and Amendment V10 to include better policy and tools to support decision making.

Planning Practice Note 92 provides guidance about strategic planning and the application of the updated framework and tools:

State planning policy sets out broad principles for use and development. This includes consideration of encroachment and land use compatibility. Clause 13.07-1S Land use compatibility, of the Planning Policy Framework, aims to:
  • protect community amenity
  • protect human health and safety

while facilitating appropriate commercial, industrial or other uses with potential adverse off-site impacts.

The priority when planning is to avoid land use conflict in the first place. This is reflected in the Planning Policy Framework. It is important to ensure that zoning responds to identified risks. This protects operators and surrounding communities.

It also means that sensitive uses and future urban growth can be directed away from areas affected by off-site impacts.

Clause 53.10 sets out distances that apply to land uses with potential off-site impacts.

These distances are based on the potential adverse impacts of each land use or activity. They represent a threshold distance within which further detailed assessment is needed. This is to determine whether the proposed use or activity is appropriate.

The Buffer Area Overlay (BAO) clause 44.08, can be used to prevent incompatible use and development. It can apply to areas affected by the potential off-site impacts of industry, warehouse, infrastructure, or other uses.

The BAO supports the objectives in clause 13.07-1S. The BAO also complements clause 53.10 by ensuring that land use and development around existing industry is appropriate.

Proponents must meet criteria and provide supporting information to apply the BAO. Issues of land use conflict and compatibility may still exist in areas not covered by the BAO.

Planning Practice Note 92 explains the criteria and information required to apply the BAO.


The following principles were identified to guide feedback and discussion about managing buffers in Victoria.

Best Practice

Priority should be given to preventing off-site impacts in the first place, acknowledging that even best practice emission control cannot guarantee such impacts will never occur.

Accessible and visible

Land used for a buffer or within a recommended separation distance should be easily identifiable and information in plain English about potential adverse impacts should be readily available.

Transparent and evidence-based

The intent of planning provisions and the way in which they operate should be transparent and based on reliable evidence and technical information. Associated responsibilities and decision-making criteria should be made clear.


Requirements across planning and environmental frameworks should be consistent and integrated.


Regulatory requirements are proportionate to the planning and environmental risks.


Land use planning outcomes balance the need to support industry and infrastructure with the need to minimise environmental and human health risks.

How best to manage the interface between industries and sensitive uses is a longstanding planning issue. Planning approaches to address buffer issues have been varied and complex. They have also led to inconsistent decision making.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) reviewed this problem, supported by experts and public feedback. The review looked at how the planning system can better manage buffers between industries and sensitive uses.

In 2018, DELWP asked Environmental Resources Management Australia Pty Ltd (ERM) to do a review. ERM reviewed how Victoria's planning system manages land use buffers and separation distances. ERM provided a technical report to DELWP. The report assesses the planning policy and tools in the Victoria Planning Provisions. It also analysed local and international case studies to see how conflicting land uses are currently managed in planning.

First, DELWP sought public feedback about how buffers can be better managed in the planning system.

Then, DELWP consulted further on draft options to:

  • update the Planning Policy Framework and clause 53.10
  • introduce the Buffer Area Overlay.

More details about the consultation are on the Engage Victoria website.

The DELWP review responded to:

Page last updated: 04/03/21