Project status: Active

Our city is growing. With more people living and working in Canberra than ever before, we need a planning system that can facilitate this growth without compromising the characteristics of the city that we value.

Through the ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project (the Project) we are reviewing and reforming our planning system in a holistic way to deliver better outcomes for communities, the environment and people across Canberra.

We are proposing changes to our planning system through a new Planning Act, introducing District Strategies, and a new Territory Plan. Watch the video below to find out more about the new planning system.

Overview of the new planning system

Public consultation on the draft Planning Bill

From Wednesday 16 March 2022 to Wednesday 15 June 2022 we asked Canberrans to have their say on the draft Planning Bill and some of the key policy directions it proposes. Consultation is now closed, but you can view public submissions here, and also see the Quick Comment notice board here. A Listening Report is being developed and will be released soon.

If you would still like more information on the Planning Bill you can check out the Document Library on this page, or review the Information Session Resources.

We will use your views to

Following engagement on the draft Planning Bill, we will review all feedback and change the proposed legislation as needed. The draft Planning Bill will then be presented to the ACT Legislative Assembly.

We will produce an engagement report in late 2022 that will detail how community feedback has been used in the final Planning Bill.

If passed, the Planning Bill will become the Planning Act and will replace the Planning and Development Act 2007. We anticipate the new Planning Act will commence in early 2023.

More information

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.

Since 2019 we have been reviewing the ACT planning system and benchmarking its key elements against other successful national and international planning systems. We want a modern planning system that is accessible, easy to navigate, and encourages participation in planning.

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 ACT Planning System 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 eight 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.

Further information of the work completed to date can be found in the Project Update Paper released in late 2021.

The Planning Bill is a proposal for a new law that will be presented to the Legislative Assembly for consideration. We are consulting on a draft of the Planning Bill in March-June 2022, before finalising the Bill and presenting it to the Assembly.

The new Planning Bill sets the foundation of our reformed planning system and will be a key tool in delivering a simpler and easier to use system. It provides the opportunity to build an improved system that is outcomes-focussed and promotes good planning, design and development across Canberra, while supporting the wellbeing of our residents and protecting our natural environment.

The current legislation (the Planning and Development Act 2007) has grown complex and cumbersome as changes have been added in a piecemeal way over time. We are proposing a new Planning Bill to establish a reformed planning system that can deliver good planning, design and development outcomes across the ACT.

The Bill proposes key changes to the existing Act, while retaining the features that have worked well under the current system and will remain fit for purpose in the reformed system. The Bill will:

  • put people at the heart of the planning system by focussing on liveability, prosperity and the wellbeing of all Canberrans
  • be a great opportunity to build a planning system that promotes great planning, design and development outcomes for Canberra and the community
  • support a reformed planning system that is transparent, simple and easy to use so:
    • industry, environmental groups and the community have trust and confidence in the new system
    • the right type of investment and development is encouraged.

The current legislation has grown complex and cumbersome. By drafting a new Act from the ground up, we can refresh and modernise the planning system to make it simpler, easier to use and more focussed on achieving outcomes for the people of the ACT.

A new Planning Act 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 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.

The main changes proposed in the new Planning Act 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.
  • expand the functions of the Territory Planning Authority (formerly known as the ACT Planning and Land 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.

Outcomes focus means the new planning system will outline the desired results of planning rather than prescribe how things need to be done, allowing freedom in how the result is achieved. It means going beyond looking at buildings and parks in isolation to incorporate wellbeing, health, recreation, employment, housing and environmental factors into the DNA of the planning system.

It will mean greater flexibility in the way developments can be designed, allowing greater emphasis on improving design quality and built outcomes so that developments can perform well within their local context.

Developments that perform well and integrate effectively into their site context. A good outcome considers built form, public spaces, interactions with surrounding blocks and more. It considers community needs now and into the future.

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.