A planning scheme is a legal document prepared by the local council or the Minister for Planning, and approved by the Minister. It contains policies and provisions that control land use and development.

Planning schemes apply to all private and public land in Victoria and are generally binding on everyone, with some exemptions.

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.

The planning scheme, amendments and related documents can be viewed free of charge during office hours at the offices of the responsible authority and on the department's website.

Planning scheme structure

All planning schemes have a standard structure drawn from the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) and specified in the Ministerial Direction on the Form and Content of Planning Schemes.

Planning schemes have three main parts:

  1. Maps showing how land is affected by zones and overlays.
  2. The ordinance setting out the written requirements of a scheme.
  3. Incorporated documents such as the Code of Practice for Private Tennis Court Development.

Every planning scheme must include each part of the Victoria Planning Provisions and local content in the same order (see diagram).

Diagram showing the various components of a planning scheme.

The MPS is a succinct expression of the overarching strategic policy directions of a municipality. It provides for the planning scheme’s policy foundation, based on the municipality’s location and regional context, history, assets, strengths, key attributes and influences. The MPS supports but does not form part of the PPF. The PPF and MPS work together to form the strategic basis of a planning scheme.

The MPS provides an overview of important local planning issues and sets out the vision and strategic directions for future land use and development for the municipality.

It provides:

  • a link to the council corporate plan and the planning framework
  • the strategic basis for the local content of the planning scheme, such as local policies and the choice of zones and overlays
  • the strategic basis for decision making by the responsible authority.

The MPS is dynamic. It’s reviewed and updated periodically to make sure it responds to the changing needs of the community.

The Planning Policy Framework provides a context for spatial planning and decision making by planning and responsible authorities.

Planning schemes are currently being amended to remove the Local Planning Policy Framework and integrate local policy into a combined Planning Policy Framework that includes State, regional and local policy. Local and regional policy must be consistent with State policy.

Planning authorities and responsible authorities (typically a municipal council) must take these policies into account in their decision making.

A local planning policy outlines how the authority will implement the strategic directions in the MPS and how state policies will be implemented at a local level.

A local planning policy states what the council will do in relation to a specific planning matter, or the council's expectation of what should happen.  A local policy provides guidance for day to day decision making and helps the community understand how a proposal will be considered.

State, regional and local planning policy must be taken into account when preparing amendments to the planning scheme or making decisions under the scheme.

All land in Victoria has a zone.  Zones specify particular purposes for land, such as business, industrial or residential.  They show what the land can be used for, and include controls relating to buildings and works and subdivision.

Standard zones for statewide application are included in the VPP and are used in all schemes as required. The first purpose of each zone is to implement the MPS and PPF.

Each planning scheme only includes the zones required to implement its local strategic directions. Councils can’t vary zones or introduce their own local zones. New zones can only be introduced by the Minister for Planning with an amendment to the VPP. Some zones have schedules that allow for local content to be included.

A site or area can have overlay requirements in addition to the zone requirements. Generally, overlays apply to a single issue or a related set of issues (such as heritage, environmental concern or flooding). Where more than one issue applies to land, multiple overlays can be used.

Standard overlays for statewide application are included in the VPP.  Each planning scheme only includes the overlays required to implement the municipality's local strategic directions..

Many overlays have schedules to specify local objectives and requirements.

Particular provisions are specific prerequisites or planning provisions for a range of particular uses and developments, such as advertising signs and car parking. Particular provisions apply consistently across the state. Only particular provisions already in the VPP can be included in planning schemes and they apply in addition to the requirements of a zone or overlay unless specified otherwise.

General provisions are operational requirements that are consistent across the state. They include matters such as:

  • general exemptions
  • existing use rights
  • general provisions for use and development of land, decision guidelines
  • referral and notices provisions
  • applications under section 96 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Operational provisions:

  • explain the operation of the parts of a planning scheme
  • define land use terms
  • specify responsibility for administration and enforcement of the scheme
  • list statewide and local incorporated documents and background documents
  • explain the strategic implementation of the MPS.

This list includes all amendments to the scheme, including amendments to:

  • local provisions - the MPS, local planning policy and any schedules
  • the Victoria Planning Provisions which included a consequential amendment to the scheme.

A brief description of each amendment is provided.

A set of standard provisions for planning schemes called the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) is created by the Minister for Planning under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (the Act). These provisions form a template for all planning schemes.

From time to time the Minister issues directions to planning authorities about the form and content of planning schemes, guiding how they’re constructed.

More about the VPP

The VPP is used to source and construct planning schemes. It’s not a planning scheme and doesn’t apply to any land.

The VPP and the Ministerial Direction on the Form and Content of Planning Schemes ensure that the construction and layout of planning schemes is consistent across Victoria. It provides the framework, standard provisions and State planning policy.

The planning authority (usually the local council) must provide the local planning policy content, including a Municipal Planning Strategy, and must select the appropriate zones and overlays from the VPP for inclusion in their planning scheme.

The VPP also references incorporated documents common to all planning schemes.

The suite of standard zones in the VPP is designed to be flexible, so State and local policies need to provide clear guidance for decision makers and applicants. 

Amending the VPP

Amendments to the VPP are made as needed to keep the VPP up to date and abreast with changes in policy and practice.

Amending the VPP is similar to the planning scheme amendment process, but only the Minister for Planning - or other Minister, public authority or local council authorised by the Minister - can prepare an amendment to the VPP. Only the Minister for Planning can approve an amendment to the VPP.

An amendment to the provisions of the VPP will also amend planning schemes which include those provisions. When the VPP amendment is approved, the schemes are amended at the same time.

The Minister, the responsible authority, each local council and any person whom the Minister specifies, must keep an up to date copy of the VPP available for public inspection during office hours.

The Planning and Environment Act 1987 allows certain documents to be incorporated in a planning scheme by reference, rather than by including them in the scheme itself.

Incorporated documents are included by being listed in:

  • the Table to Clause 72.04 (statewide)
  • the Schedule to Clause 72.04 (local) of the planning scheme.

Generally, where reference to a document is specifically required because the document affects the operation of the planning scheme, the document, or relevant part of the document, should be incorporated and read as part of the scheme.

Find information about the difference between an incorporated document and a background document in Planning Practice Note 13: Incorporated and background documents (PDF, 141.6 KB) or (DOCX, 45.2 KB)

View an incorporated document

You can view most incorporated documents in a planning scheme by going to the relevant planning scheme online and selecting the Incorporated documents tab. If an incorporated document is not available online, you can visit the relevant council to view a copy.

Documents which have been incorporated into a planning scheme by a local council (Schedule to Clause 72.04) form part of that planning scheme. They must be available for inspection at that council's offices and at the department's offices. 

As part of every planning scheme, statewide incorporated documents (Table to Clause 72.04), they must be available for inspection at any local council and at the department's offices and website. If a document is not available online, please contact the relevant departmental office or the council to make an appointment to view it.

Page last updated: 12/09/19