The territory now has a new Planning Act.

The new Act is the legal foundation for the new planning system. It shifts the focus to good planning and development outcomes.

New developments will have to consider their surrounding communities. They will need to look at the impacts developments could have on matters like:

  • wellbeing
  • health
  • recreation
  • the environment.

They must still also meet the set requirements in the Territory Plan, new design guides and supporting materials. So while we are moving towards an outcome based system, we will still maintain mandatory rules and criteria. This is to provide assurance to the community that rules and measures exist in the system.

Recent population projections show that Canberra needs 100,000 new homes by 2050. This once-in-a-generation reform will allow for this growth while leading to better outcomes for people. This will enable Canberrans to live close to shops, transport, parks, and services. That will also be balanced with protecting the natural environment and strengthening our local communities.

How is the new system different?

When a new development application is submitted under the new system, the applicant must now show how they meet the requirements in the Territory Plan. They must also show how they have considered the impact the building will have on its community.

Under the old system, there was a total reliance on the rules in the Territory Plan. Rules are still an important and remain a part of this system. However, there are also now requirements for applicants to consider the character of the neighbourhood, the community and the design of the building as well. These requirements will also be considered by the staff assessing development applications.

Considerations would include:

  • the wellbeing of residents and neighbours
  • health
  • the recreation opportunities a building provides
  • how it is resilient to a changing climate.
What are the key changes?

The Planning Act 2023 sets the legal foundation for a modern planning system that has been adapted in the face of the predicted growth Canberra will see over the coming decades.

We want to see well designed and well-integrated buildings and urban spaces. These will positively impact the wellbeing and liveability of the communities they will be built in.

It’s not about removing rules and protections. It’s about making proponents consider those aspects, alongside the protections and limits.

The main changes:

  • a balance of rules with better outcomes that enhance liveability, prosperity, and wellbeing
  • Introduction of new ‘principles of good planning’ and Planning (Good Consultation) Guidelines 2023 (No 1)
  • expanded strategic planning in the ACT, including through district strategies
  • expanded scope of the planning system so it is modern. It also reflects other areas of government policy like climate change, wellbeing and environmental policies
  • expanded functions of the Territory Planning Authority (formerly known as the ACT Planning and Land Authority)
  • establishment of a new, outcomes-focused Territory Plan
  • introduction of a more efficient Territory Plan amendment process
  • changes to the development assessment system
  • Introduction of pre-decision advice on development applications (DAs)
  • Introduction of new processes for applications deemed to be a 'Territory Priority Project'
  • improved transparency and access to information on planning processes and decisions.
What is an outcome focused planning system and what is a good outcome?

We want buildings to fit into their communities and provide them with better outcomes.

A good outcome considers the building, and how it fits in the surrounding neighbourhood. It considers community needs now and into the future. This will result in buildings and open spaces that are fit for purpose. They will be enjoyable to live in and to use while providing connections to services, nature and transport.

It will mean greater flexibility in the way developments are designed. This allows for greater emphasis on improving the design and how the community will use them. This is so that developments can perform well within their local neighbourhoods.

Does this mean there are no planning rules anymore?

No, proponents must still meet a range of requirements set out in the new Act and the Territory Plan. These rules give both proponents and the community assurance that the Government is still providing a base line for design of the built form.

An applicant will need to demonstrate how their development meets the rules in the Territory Plan (such as height limits). It must also show how the development meets good design outcomes and fits and supports its neighbourhood.

While the Territory Plan has an outcomes focus, it still contains mandatory limits. There will still be cases where these are necessary and deliver the desired planning outcomes. For example, mandatory requirements for building heights and setbacks in residential areas are still in place.

Find out more

You can review this consultation process and find out what we heard on the ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project YourSay page.

You can review the key policy updates and papers over the last 4 years in the project's resources page and access training and education.

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