The planning system in Victoria operates under the Planning and Environment Act 1987, the framework for planning the use, development and protection of land in Victoria in the present and long-term interests of all Victorians. 

This page includes information about sustainability in the planning system in Victoria. For more information about how the planning system works more broadly, see the Victorian Government 'Guide to Victoria’s Planning System'.

Planning & Environment Act

Sustainability is fundamental to the Planning & Environment Act. Under the Act, the objectives of planning in Victoria are: 

(a) to provide for the fair, orderly, economic and sustainable use, and development of land;
(b) to provide for the protection of natural and man-made resources and the maintenance of ecological processes and genetic diversity;
(c) to secure a pleasant, efficient and safe working, living and recreational environment for all Victorians and visitors to Victoria;
(d) to conserve and enhance those buildings, areas or other places which are of scientific, aesthetic, architectural or historical interest, or otherwise of special cultural value;
(e) to protect public utilities and other assets and enable the orderly provision and co-ordination of public utilities and other facilities for the benefit of the community;
(f) to facilitate development in accordance with the objectives set out in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e);
(fa) to facilitate the provision of affordable housing in Victoria;
(g) to balance the present and future interests of all Victorians.

Victorian Planning Provisions & Planning schemes

The planning scheme for each municipality is a legal document, prepared and approved under the PE Act. It contains state and local planning policies, zones and overlays and other provisions that affect how land can be used and developed.

The PE Act also provides for the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) – a template document of standard state provisions for all planning schemes to be derived from.

Sustainability is referenced throughout the VPPs, and therefore the planning schemes of all Victorian councils. It is also within local policies, zones and overlays in individual schemes. 

Environmentally Sustainable Development Local Planning Policy

Many Victorian councils have a specific Environmentally Sustainable Design policy in their planning schemes. The policies are typically the same in each Council except for minor differences in the size and scale of development which triggers the policy. 

Planning Policy Framework translation

Since 2018 the Victorian Government has led a process of translating and integrating local policies into the Victorian Planning Policy Framework. As at early 2024, this process is nearing completion - less than ten of Victoria's 79 councils are awaiting the gazettal of their translated planning schemes. 

For councils with ESD policies (see list below) who have completed the PPF translation process - the ESD policy is now referenced at Clause 15.01-2. 

List of Council ESD policies

Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process

To deliver the sustainability objectives within their planning schemes, Victorian councils have worked together for over two decades to develop and implement a consistent and rigorous framework for assessing sustainability in the planning approvals process.

BESS has been purpose-built by local governments to support this framework through a consistent, scorecard based tool. The Sustainable Design Fact Sheets support the framework by outlining best practice standards and design advice. The framework:

  • Recognises the role of local governments as a statutory authority for planning matters;
  • Provides a framework for consideration of sustainable design elements of planning applications;
  • Offers a consistent method for identifying opportunities for improved environmental building performance; and
  • Ensures that sustainability is considered at the very early design phase – the best time to maximise opportunities for good orientation and other initiatives that create liveable, comfortable, efficient buildings.

There is precedent at the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) that upholds these requirements for developments.