No matter your age, job or background, Victoria’s planning legislation has a big impact on your life. That’s because it governs the built and natural environment around us.

Councils use the legislation to develop planning schemes that affect how land can be used and developed within your local area. These planning schemes then govern everything from the location of parks, bike paths and new roads to whether or not your planning permit gets the nod.

Given its importance, we thought it would be useful to give a short run-down of some of the key pieces of Victorian planning legislation.

Planning and Environment Act 1987

 Victoria’s Planning and Environment Act 1987 is what is known as an ‘enabling’ act. This means it provides the legal framework for Victoria’s planning system, setting out the:

  • Broad objectives for planning in Victoria.
  • Main rules and principles for how the planning system works.
  • Key planning procedures and legal instruments in the planning system.
  • Roles and responsibilities of the minister, councils, government departments, the community and other stakeholders

The act does not go into the nitty-gritty on how planning should be done or the detailed rules that should apply to land use and development in any given situation. For that level of detail, you need to turn to the ‘subordinate’ instruments under the act, which include the Victoria Planning Provisions, local council planning schemes and ministerial directions.

Subordinate instruments under the Act

Subordinate instruments get their legal weight from a superior enabling act – which in this case is the Planning and Environment Act 1987. Victoria’s subordinate planning instruments include:

  • Local council planning schemes
  • Victoria Planning Provisions
  • Regulations
  • Ministerial directions

Local councils work with the state government to develop their own planning schemes. These planning schemes describe the types of activities or developments that may occur in different areas of the municipality – with many of the activities requiring planning permits before they can go ahead.

And seeing as Victoria has 79 councils, it makes sense for these planning schemes to be standardised – otherwise, it would likely end up in a hot mess.

Enter the Victoria Planning Provisions – a standardised template that councils use to construct their own planning schemes.

Regulations set out the legal rules under the act, such as the information that needs to be included in any applications, notices and permits.

Overseeing everything is the Minister for Planning. Under the Planning and Environment Act, the minister has the power, in certain circumstances, to intervene in the planning process.

Other planning legislation

 Three other pieces of legislation directly impact planning in Victoria:

  • Environment Effects Act 1978 – which requires certain developments to carry out an environmental impact assessment as part of the planning approvals process
  • Subdivision Act 1988 – which sets out the procedures for the subdivision and consolidation of land, including the creation and removal of easements over land
  • Heritage Act 2017 – which seeks to protect and conserve Victoria’s cultural heritage

Freya Southwell is a property development lawyer at Sutton Laurence King Lawyers.

Planning legislation is complex and can be a labyrinth to unravel. Get the expert advice you need to make sense of it all by calling Sutton Laurence King on 03 9070 9810 or filling out this online form.

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