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Guide to Councils

Planning

Within statewide planning laws, each council has a local planning scheme that describes which types of activities or developments may occur in different areas of the municipality. Many activities require planning permits, which are usually issued by the council.

A planning permit authorises a specific use or development of land, or both. A building permit authorises the construction or demolition of a building or structure if it complies with the building building regulations.

Councils work with the Victorian Government to develop planning schemes and provides Urban Design Guidelines to control land use, urban design and development within Victoria. The main planning activities conducted by councils are the consideration and approval of planning permits under the planning scheme, and preparation and consultation on proposed changes to the planning scheme.

Land use planning is administered under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and may apply to all private and public land in Victoria. A planning scheme is binding on all members of the public, on every Victorian minister, government department, public authority and council. The land to which a planning scheme may apply includes land covered by water (such as lakes and some coastal waters) and areas above or below ground (such as air rights and excavations).

Exemptions may be provided by a Governor in Council Order and published in the Government Gazette.

To read more, refer to A Guide to the Planning System or visit the Planning website at DELWP.

Each council's performance for Statutory Planning can be viewed and compared in the Compare Councils section of this site. To do this, click on the service area icon, select your council from the filter, then use the checkbox to select three additional similar councils for comparison from the list.

Planning permits

A planning permit is required for a use or development if specified in the planning scheme. In other instances a planning scheme will specify that a planning permit is not required for a use or development, that it may be exempt from a permit or that it is prohibited.

Contact your council for advice on whether a particular use or development requires a planning permit. Make sure you can accurately identify the property in question – usually the street address and nearest intersection is sufficient. It may be necessary for a search to made of the permit history and, if a written response is required, a fee may be payable.

You can also make planning enquiries online.

Some other approvals and licences (e.g. for the sale of liquor) will not be given unless a planning permit has been issued.

When a council proposes to grant a planning permit, affected people may have a right to object. The council is likely to write to affected property owners, advertise the proposal and have a copy of the application available for inspection at the council offices. People may make a written objection, explaining how they would be affected by the granting of the permit. The council must consider all objections in making a decision. All objections must be on planning grounds.

Planning schemes

Planning schemes set out policies and provisions for the use, development and protection of land for municipalities in Victoria. These are legal documents prepared by the local council or the Minister for Planning and are approved by the Minister for Planning.

Land use planning schemes are developed in line with planning policy and strategy. They contain planning policies, zones, overlays and other provisions that affect how land can be used and developed.

A council must review its planning scheme no later than one year after each date by which it is required to approve a Council Plan under section 125 of the Local Government Act 1989. The review must evaluate the planning scheme to ensure that it is consistent in form and content with the directions or guidelines issued by the Minister and local policy objectives. When the review is completed, the council must report its findings to the Minister for Planning.

The Act also provides for the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) – a template document of standard state provisions that all planning schemes are derived from. Each council must keep a copy of the VPP and its planning scheme available for inspection during office hours, free of charge. All of council’s planning schemes can also be viewed from Planning Schemes Online.

An important part of a council’s planning scheme is the Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS). The MSS provides the broad outline and vision for existing and future land use within a municipality. It provides the rationale for the zone and overlay requirements and particular provisions in that council’s planning scheme.

Proposed changes to the zoning of land or to the controls in a planning scheme can be introduced as an amendment to the existing scheme. Generally an amendment is prepared by a local council and is subject to prescribed public notice and consultation processes.

Planning scheme amendments

There are many reasons why a planning scheme may need to be amended, including:

  • to enhance or implement the strategic vision of a scheme
  • to implement new state, regional or local policy
  • to update the scheme
  • to correct mistakes
  • to allow some use or development currently prohibited to take place
  • to restrict use or development in a sensitive location
  • to set aside land for acquisition for a public purpose or to remove such a reservation when it is no longer needed in the scheme.

The Minister may authorise the preparation of an amendment to a planning scheme by a council under Section 8A or Section 8B of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Specific consultation arrangements apply in relation to proposed amendments to the Planning Scheme. These enable a person to make a submission to the council about an amendment to its planning scheme, or to a panel appointed to consider a planning scheme amendment.

Councils are required to give public notice when proposing amendments to their planning schemes. This includes advice about how submissions can be made.

Each council's performance for Statutory Planning can be viewed and compared in the Compare Councils section of this site. To do this, click on the service area icon, select your council from the filter, then use the checkbox to select three additional similar councils for comparison from the list.

Zoning

The planning scheme zones land for particular uses; for example, residential, industrial, business or other. The zones are listed in the planning scheme and each zone has a purpose and set of requirements. This information specifies whether or not a planning permit is required. It also specifies matters that the council must consider before deciding to grant a permit.

A zone may also specify information that must be submitted with a planning permit application. Further, the zone contains information relating to land uses, subdivision of land, construction of new buildings and other changes to the land.

A zone sets out land use controls in three sections:

  • Section 1: Land uses that do not require a planning permit
  • Section 2: Land uses that require a planning permit
  • Section 3: Prohibited uses.

Some uses are not allowed on land in a zone because they may conflict with other uses; for example, industry is prohibited in the General Residential Zone.

In some zones, the development of land and the proposed new use both require a permit. For example, in the Mixed Use Zone, a permit is required to construct a building and to use a building for industry. In other zones, the use may not require a permit, but a permit may be required to construct the building (the development) for the use. In this situation, council can only consider the effects of the new building (such as height, visual bulk and so on) and not the change in the use of the land.

Overlays

The planning scheme map may show that a piece of land has an overlay as well as a zone affecting it. Not all land has an overlay. Some land may be affected by more than one overlay. If an overlay applies, the land will have some special feature such as ‘heritage building’, ‘significant vegetation’ or ‘flood risk’.

The heritage overlay, for example, applies to heritage places of natural or cultural significance and describes the requirements that apply. The overlay information will indicate whether a planning permit is required for the construction of a building or other changes to the land. For example, if a heritage overlay applies, a planning permit is required to demolish an existing building.

The heritage overlay requires a council to consider, before it grants the permit, whether the demolition of the building will lessen the significance of the heritage place. An overlay may specify information that must be submitted with an application for a planning permit.