Planning Bill engagement overview

From 16 March to 15 June 2022 we asked Canberrans to have their say on the draft Planning Bill and some of the key policy directions it proposes.

You can view all public submissions and see the Quick Comment notice board below. The Consultation Report captures and responds to all comments, concerns and ideas that were raised during the consultation process.

The Key Changes document details how community feedback helped revise the draft Planning Bill. The Paper provides a comparison of the reformed planning system in the Planning Bill 2022 compared to the Planning and Development Act 2007.

You can see some frequently asked questions below the submissions. If you would still like more information on the Planning Bill see the Document Library on this page or review the Information Session Resources.

What's next?

The Planning Bill 2022 has passed the Legislative Assembly and will become the Planning Act 2023.

This is just the first milestone. Work is underway to finalise the new Territory Plan, the district strategies and the design guides which are all important parts of the new system and will help new buildings deliver better outcomes to Canberrans and their community.

An overview of how the provisions that were set out in the Planning Bill 2022 relate to the new Territory Plan is provided in the fact sheet in the Document Library.

Planning Bill information

Planning Bill submission register

The documents below are submissions received for the public consultation of the Planning Bill. Some submissions are still pending approval/consent to be uploaded for public viewing. Any submissions that were not submitted through YourSay (i.e. via email) can be made available upon request of the author.

Written Submissions

Planning Bill Quick Comment Notice Board

17 June, 2022

Eucryphia says:

Canberra could seriously compete with other cities like Copenhagen, who wants to be the first carbon neutral capital by 2025.

16 June, 2022

EG says:

Writing to express my support of affordable housing, walkability, mixed use zoning and medium density residence initiatives in Canberra.

15 June, 2022

Mark says:

There should be less scope for vexatious appeals by third parties attempting to block innovative housing solutions

15 June, 2022

Mark says:

Affordable housing should be one of the key objectives of any planning regime, along with environmental sustainability.

15 June, 2022

Hamish says:

Walkability, affordability, and good public transit matter. Make it easier to build multi-family and mixed use properties. Density good.

15 June, 2022

GJ says:

Should be more focus on increasing housing affordability, and greater allowances for medium density housing throughout suburbs

15 June, 2022

Eucryphia says:

Helping big developers must be a side-effect from a greater benefit, not a cause. There should be capacity for experts, community, & small.

15 June, 2022

curly says:

Planning Bill must clearly state how it contributes to ACT achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions (& other ACT priorities)

15 June, 2022

curly says:

Neighbours should be informed of potential building or developments, and should have appeal rights.

15 June, 2022

curly says:

Solar access and shade must be prioritised and protected for all building occupants and for people outside (incl on streets)

15 June, 2022

curly says:

Planning system must ensure Canberra's uniqueness, not allow blandness or 'this could be anywhere'

15 June, 2022

curly says:

Streets with driveways designed/redesigned as shared spaces with people & amenity prioritised over vehicles, lower speeds come naturally

More information (FAQs)

The Policy Overview paper and Planning Bill fact sheets (located in the document library on this page) provide a summary of the key policy areas in the draft Bill. The section below provides answers to some key questions you may have.

The introduction of the Planning Bill 2022 in September 2022 is a fundamental feature of the ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project.

The project started in 2019 with a review of the ACT planning system and benchmarking its key elements against other successful national and international planning systems.

Work to date has involved consultation with the community and technical work to explore options for an improved planning system in the ACT. Outcomes of the initial consultation and review are outlined in a series of policy direction papers that continue to guide our ongoing work on the review and reform project.

Throughout 2020 and 2021 we engaged with the community and key stakeholders to help inform the development of district strategies for each of our urban districts in the ACT. The new district strategies will provide additional planning guidance on a district scale in our revised planning system. The District Planning Engagement Report provides a detailed overview of what we heard through engagement in 2021.

In 2021, we also established the Stakeholder Working Series and Legislation Working Group with community and industry representatives. These groups provided a great opportunity to share information and knowledge, discuss policy issues and receive feedback on potential approaches for the draft Planning Bill to allow us to design the best planning system for the future of the ACT and Canberrans.

A Project Update Paper was released in late 2021.

In March 2022, we issued a draft Planning Bill for community consultation (see the Document Library). Feedback informed the Planning Bill 2022, introduced to the Legislative Assembly in September 2022.

The Planning Bill 2022 is a fundamental feature of the reformed planning system. It is the legislative framework for managing planning and development across the Territory. The Bill delivers a planning system that is clear, easy to use and facilitates the realisation of long-term aspirations for the growth and development of Canberra, while maintaining its valued character.

The broad aims of the new Planning Bill are to:

  • improve and modernise the way the Government plans for the ACT’s future
  • support the city's growth while maintaining its valued character
  • provide for a modern planning system that is accessible, easy to use and delivers improved development outcomes across the ACT.

The Bill sets the framework for an ‘outcomes-focussed’ Territory Plan that will allow greater flexibility in the way developments are proposed and assessed by Government. This will place an emphasis on improving planning, design quality and built outcomes so that developments can perform well within their context.

We are refreshing and modernising the planning system to make it simpler, easier to use and more focussed on achieving outcomes for the ACT and its people.

The Planning Bill will set the foundation of a reformed planning system that can facilitate growth without compromising the characteristics of the city that we value.

Through the draft Planning Bill, we will create a planning system that delivers for the people of the ACT—a system that understands the needs of our residents, plans for those needs, and then makes sure those needs are met.

The Planning Bill sets out how we will plan for the future to meet your needs—where people will live, how they will move around, how the natural environment will be protected and how our city will be resilient to the impacts of climate change.

It sets up the planning framework and processes that will be needed, from planning new suburbs to managing change in established areas to considering new buildings. For example, this framework allows us to consider important matters like:

  • how environment and traditional knowledge and culture are considered when we plan for new communities
  • how we inform people and get people involved in planning processes to inform our decision‑making
  • how we set out what is expected for different types of housing
  • how we consider what schools and other services are needed for new areas and existing areas undergoing change.

At the moment, our planning system and development is dictated by strict rules. Under the new outcomes-focussed planning system, we will look to quality, results and performance.

Most people don’t directly interact with the planning system very often, but this new legislation makes it easier for you to do so. Easier for you to influence planning and the outcomes of planning—what the built environment looks like and how it interacts with the natural environment.

What does this mean for the area you live in?

  • Urban planning affects the area you live in; for example where and what kind of housing, businesses and community facilities can be built.
  • The Planning Bill will guide us in planning for future needs in your area.
  • At the higher level, the Planning Bill sets out the need for the ACT Planning Strategy (for the whole Territory) and a district strategy (for your district, e.g. Belconnen).
  • For example, a district strategy might help us identify and plan to improve the cycle path network in your district so you can easily and safely get from where you live to where you work or shop or play.

What does this mean for your house and block of land?

  • The Planning Bill requires us to have a Territory Plan which contains the planning requirements for what you can do on your block of land.
  • The Territory Plan has all the detailed requirements for your block of land. This includes the zoning, which tells you what type of development you are allowed to have, as well as the requirements for designing and building your house or buildings.
  • The Bill says what you need to get approval for, and what you don’t need approval for (exempt development).
  • The Planning (Exempt Development) Regulation sets out the work you can do on your block without needing approval. This includes things like garages, decks and solar panels. You may also be able to build a new single dwelling without planning, provided it meets requirements for height and setbacks from the boundaries.

What does this mean for community facilities in your area?

  • The Planning Bill requires us to prepare a Territory Plan that tells us how all land in the ACT is zoned. Our zoning system makes sure that we provide land for all different land uses—different types of housing, commercial and retail businesses, community facilities and nature conservation, amongst other types.
  • We have land that is zoned for community facilities around the city to make sure you have important facilities such as schools, churches, community centres, health centres, libraries and aged care facilities. Some privately owned land might also be used for public facilities, such as swimming pools, shopping centres etc.
  • Urban planning and district strategies will help us understand what community facilities you need in your area and how this might change as needs change so we can meet demand in the future.

How might you interact with processes set out in the Planning Bill?

  • If you submit a development application to the authority for your block of land: The Bill sets out the processes for what needs approval, how to apply, the application requirements and how your application will be assessed.
  • If you like to keep track of developments in your area: If development approval is required and an application is lodged, the Bill outlines what information the developer needs to provide, and where and how you can see and comment on that information.
  • If you like to know about and be involved in planning decisions across the city: The Bill sets out the framework for the types of developments that must have community consultation and how and when that consultation will occur. For example, when the Minister declares a Territory Priority Project and developing the Planning Strategy and District Strategies, public consultation must occur.
  • If you want to be involved in planning for the future: The Bill includes processes for strategic and spatial planning. This means understanding how we live, work, shop, play and do business and plan for the future. The Planning Bill requires us to prepare a Planning Strategy and District Strategies that set out our long-term vision, our planning policies to achieve the vision and how we will manage change. The Bill also requires that we consult with the ACT community—you—when we prepare these strategic documents.

The Planning Bill contains fundamental changes to the structure and function of the system, while keeping some existing processes and features that remain effective and fit-for-purpose. There is a key changes document in the document library that also shows how the draft Planning Bill changed following community and stakeholder consultation.

The main changes from the previous Act to the new Bill will:

  • simplify the current system so it is easier to understand
  • put the focus more on outcomes than rules, with a new object of the Bill that supports and enhances liveability, prosperity and wellbeing
  • introduce new ‘principles of good planning’ and ‘principles of good consultation’
  • expand strategic planning provisions, including the introduction of district planning through district strategies
  • expand the scope of the planning system to give effect to other government policies such as climate change, wellbeing and environmental policies.
  • rename the current planning and land authority as the Territory Planning Authority
  • establish a new, outcomes-focussed Territory Plan
  • introduce a more efficient Territory Plan amendment process
  • streamline the development assessment system
  • introduce pre-decision advice on development applications (DAs)
  • broaden decision-making considerations for DAs
  • simplify the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process and remove EIS exemptions
  • introduce processes for ‘Territory Priority Projects’
  • split the existing regulation into a standalone exempt development regulation and a general regulation
  • provide improved transparency and access to information on planning processes and decisions.

Sustainable development was a fundamental part of the Planning and Development Act. We are maintaining the importance of this concept in the Bill and expanding it to encompass the idea of ecologically sustainable development.

This will maximise economic, social and environmental values when making planning decisions to enhance the cultural, physical and social wellbeing of all Canberrans.

An outcomes-focussed planning system is a less prescriptive system where the actual outcome of a proposed development takes precedence over rule compliance.

It is a system that will allow and promote greater flexibility, innovation, creativity and design excellence.

The new planning system will outline the desired results of planning rather than prescribe how things need to be done, allowing greater freedom in how the result is achieved.

An outcomes-focused planning system will also consider developments in the wider context of its district with greater emphasis on the context and environmental outcomes.

Good planning outcomes deliver:

  • Developments, buildings and places that enhance the quality of life and wellbeing of our residents
  • well-connected places and buildings that are inclusive and accessible
  • built forms that are creative and adaptive
  • developments that make the best use of our existing urban footprint.

Good planning outcomes also support economic growth and prosperity, consider the impacts on future generations, and are serious about our natural environment and climate resilience.

In the reformed system, the Territory Planning Authority will be more descriptive of what good planning outcomes are and, more specifically, what the desired outcomes are for an area.

The draft Bill marks the start of the next stage in the ACT Government’s Planning System Review and Reform Project, shifting from ‘review’ to ‘reform’ phases of work.

After the Planning Bill sets the legislative framework, we will develop district strategies, a new Territory Plan (to guide planning and development), design guidance and other support documents.

The government has been listening to community, business and industry over many years in many different forums. Active consultation on the reform process began in 2019 and included consultation on what people want for their districts.

Government has consulted closely with key community and industry stakeholders to prepare the draft Bill.

No, we won't be doing away with all the rules we already have to control development. Throughout the project we have maintained that the planning system must protect the characteristics of our city that we value.

For example, this means keeping the low-density nature of RZ1 areas (including development controls such as building heights and zoning), protecting areas of environmental value, and social and community facilities.

The Territory Plan contains the planning requirements that govern development across the Territory. The content of these requirements will be part of further conversations in developing the new Territory Plan.

The Bill removes the Minister call-in powers for development applications which are in the current Act. Instead, the Bill includes powers for the Minister to declare a project to be a Territory Priority Project.

District strategies are a new district-level strategic planning document proposed for our new planning system.

Through district strategies, our planning system will provide greater planning policy direction at a district scale. This will allow for managing growth and change strategically within and between districts, and protecting areas that we value. Planning at the district level provides the opportunity to identify and recognise the distinctive values of each district to be reflected in the planning system.

Several engagement activities have been held to seek community views on a range of matters relating to districts and what elements of each area are valued by residents. We are considering the outcomes from all of this engagement as an input to the work on district strategies.

Work is currently underway to develop draft district strategies. This is a priority of the reform program for 2022 and there will be further opportunities for community involvement in late 2022 and early 2023. More details on this engagement will be shared in due course.

More than 300 submissions were received through the consultation process on the draft Planning Bill. A wide range of feedback was received; it was not uncommon to receive varied views on an issue.

The Consultation Report, available in the document library, captures and responds to all comments, concerns and ideas that were raised during the consultation process.

Several key themes emerged during engagement. These related to consultation and transparency, the objects of the Bill and the new principles of good planning, strategic planning and design, spatial planning and Territory Priority Projects.

No. Community consultation is a fundamental element of a good planning system.

There will be significant improvements to the transparency of processes throughout the Planning Bill. These include application documents for Territory Plan amendments and Development Application processes being proactively published on the planning website, and improvements to strategic and spatial planning processes, through district strategies, to provide greater clarity about how areas may change and evolve in the future. The Bill introduces the Principles of Good Consultation to guide the various consultation processes in the Act and indicate the importance of community views to inform planning considerations and decisions.

The Bill removes the mandatory requirement for pre-DA consultation, because, on balance, it is not considered to add value to the development process beyond the early notification of a proposal and identification of issues of contention, which often remain issues of contention during the development application assessment.