Planning legislation

The Planning and Environment Act 1987 (the Act) provides the legal framework for the operation of Victoria's planning system.


Planning and Environment Act 1987

The purpose of this Act is to establish a framework for planning the use, development and protection of land in Victoria.

View the Planning and Environment Act 1987 on the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website

Scope of the Act

The Act sets out procedures for preparing and amending the Victoria Planning Provisions and planning schemes, obtaining permits under schemes, settling disputes, enforcing compliance with planning schemes, and other administrative procedures.

The main functions of the Act are to:

  • set the broad objectives for planning in Victoria
  • set the main rules and principles for how the Victorian planning system works
  • set up the key planning procedures and statutory instruments in the Victorian planning system
  • define the roles and responsibilities of the Minister, councils, government departments, the community and other stakeholders in the planning system.

The Act is 'enabling' legislation and does not precisely define the scope of planning, how it should be done or the detailed rules that should apply to land use and development.

These and other more detailed matters are dealt with by subordinate instruments under the Act, such as the Victoria Planning Provisions, planning schemes, regulations and Ministerial directions.

The main parts of the planning system established by the Act include:

  • the system of planning schemes that sets out how land may be used and developed
  • the Victoria Planning Provisions that sets out the template for the construction and layout of planning schemes
  • the procedures for preparing and amending the Victoria planning provisions and planning schemes
  • the procedures for settling disputes, enforcing compliance with planning schemes, and other administrative procedures.

More information about the procedures and key elements provided for in the Act are available on this site:

History of the Act

The Planning and Environment Act 1987 became the Act on 27 May 1987. However it did not come into operation until 16 February 1988.

The Act replaced the Town and Country Planning Act 1961 which replaced the Town and Country Planning Act 1958.

View these Acts on the AUSTLII website

Key roles and responsibilities

A number of parties have roles and responsibilities under the requirements of the Act.

Minister for Planning

Overall responsibility for the Act and the planning system. The Minister is both a planning and responsible authority for certain parts of Victoria.

There are parts of the Act that are administered by other Ministers either separately or jointly with the Minister for Planning.

More information about the Minister's roles and responsibilities 
More information about where the Minister issues planning permits

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

The department manages the legislation for planning, environment assessment and land subdivisions, and provides planning policy and administrative support to the Minister for Planning.

Councils

Councils are planning and responsible authorities and represent the interests of the communities within their municipalities.

Find your local council

Metropolitan Planning Authority

The Metropolitan Planning Authority implements initiatives of Plan Melbourne to deliver growth area planning, structure planning and infrastructure coordination in Melbourne's inner and outer suburbs as well as regional centres.

Find out more about the Metropolitan Planning Authority

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)

VCAT deals with disputes relating to planning permits and certain other planning decisions. The Attorney-General is responsible for VCAT.

More information about VCAT

Planning Panels Victoria

Planning Panels Victoria manages the panels appointed to give independent advice to the Minister and councils on submissions to planning scheme amendments.

More information about Planning Panels Victoria

Amending Acts

Since the Planning and Environment Act 1987 was passed it has had numerous amendments. The following table sets out some of the amending Acts that had a major impact on the Act.

Act Name Act Number Act Purpose
Planning  and Environment Amendment (Recognising Objectors) Act 2015        30/2015To require responsible authorities and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have regard to the number of objectors in considering whether a permit application may have a significant social effect.
40/2014
Among other things, the purpose of this Act is to impose a levy for the privilege of making certain planning permit applications.

Part 6 of this Act comes into operation on 1 July 2015.
Planning and Environment Amendment (General) Act 2013  3/2013 Implements Government election commitments and introduces process improvements and red tape reductions, abolishes the Development Assessment Committees and establishes the Planning Application Committee.
Planning and Environment Amendment (Growth Areas Authority and Miscellaneous) Act 2013  21/2013 Expands the role of the Growth Area Authority for the declaration of growth areas and the criminal liability of bodies corporate and clarifies responsibility for the ongoing administration and enforcement of permits issued under Division 6 of Part 4 of the Act.
Planning and Environment (VicSmart Planning Assessment) Act 2012  53/2012 Introduces a streamlined assessment process for straightforward planning permit applications to be set up in planning schemes.
Planning and Environment Amendment (Schools) Act 2012 2/2012 Introduced to exempt a school from paying a growth areas infrastructure contribution.
Planning and Environment Amendment (Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution) Act 2011 31/2011 Amended Part 9B to provide for work in kind agreements as a means of meeting a contribution payment.
Planning and Environment Amendment (Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution) Act 2010 23/2010

Inserted new Part 9B into the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to provide for a growth areas infrastructure contribution for land in a designated contribution area.

More information about the Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution

Planning and Environment (Development Contributions) Act 2004 101/2004 Improved the effectiveness and workability of the existing development contributions system that was introduced in 1995.
Planning and Environment (General Amendment) Act 2005 81/2004 Required the authorisation of planning scheme amendments and enabled planning permits to be amended not just for minor amendments. It also introduced a process for the amendment of planning permits.
Planning and Environment (Metropolitan Green Wedge Protection) Act 2003 43/2003 Provided for the protection of the metropolitan green wedges by the establishment of the Urban Growth Boundary.
Planning and Environment (Restrictive Covenants) Act 2000 100/2000

Introduced amendments that improved the coordination of decision making on permit applications where the land is burdened by a restrictive covenant.

More information about restrictive covenants

Tribunals and Licensing Authorities (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 1998 52/1998 Amended the Act as a consequence of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998. The amendments related to review of decisions and enforcement.
Planning and Environment (Planning Schemes) Act 1996 77/1996 Reformed the structure of planning schemes.
Planning and Environment (Development Contributions) Act 1995 50/1995 Inserted new Part 3B into the to provide a mechanism for the levying of development contributions.

In conjunction with the Planning and Environment Act 1987, the Planning and Environment Regulations 2015 and the Planning and Environment (Fees) Interim Regulations 2015 form the overall legal framework for the planning system in Victoria.


Other relevant legislation

The following legislation is relevant to and associated with the operation of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Building Act 1993

The main purposes of this Act are to:

  • regulate building work and standards
  • provide for accreditation of building products, construction methods, building components and building systems
  • provide a system for issuing, administering and enforcing building and occupancy permits 
  • regulate building practitioners and plumbers
  • regulate plumbing work and standards
  • provide for accreditation, certification and authorisation of plumbing work, products and materials
  • regulate cooling tower systems
  • limit the period within which building and plumbing actions may be brought
Environment Effects Act 1978 The primary purpose of this Act is to require the environmental effects of certain types of works to be assessed prior to commencement.
Heritage Act 1995

The main purposes of this Act are to:

  • provide for the protection and conservation of places and objects of cultural heritage significance
  • to provide for the registration of these places and objects
  • establish a Heritage Council
  • establish a Victoria Heritage Register
Local Government Act 1989 The primary purpose of this Act is to establish a legislative framework for the operation of local government in Victoria.
Subdivision Act 1988 This Act sets out the procedures for the subdivision and consolidation of land and the creation and removal of easements or restrictions over land. It also regulates the management of common property and the operation of bodies corporate.
Subordinate Legislation Act 1994 The primary purpose of this Act is to establish the legal framework for the development of subordinate legislation, including the provision of public participation in the process.
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 The purpose of this Act is to establish a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal as a 'one-stop-shop' for dealing with a range of disputes, including those relating to domestic building works, planning permits and owners corporation matters.

Viewing Victorian Acts and regulations

All Victorian Acts and regulations are available online. 

Find out how to view Victorian Acts, regulations and related information online

Page last reviewed on 9 June 2016

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