The Territory Plan guides planning and development in the ACT.

As part of the new planning system, Canberra now has a new interim Territory Plan.

It outlines what development can take place and where. It guides developers and gives the Territory Planning Authority the tools to approve or refuse applications for development.

The Territory Plan has District and Zone policies to help with this. District policies details the key assessment requirements and expected outcomes relevant to each specific district. Zone policies lists the types of developments that can be built in specific zones. It also lists what documentation is required for assessment to occur. These can be found in Part D, Part E and Part F of the interim Territory Plan.

You can view the new Territory Plan (including the District and Zone policies) on the ACT Legislation Register.

Design guides

The new planning system introduces design guides to help  proponents consider how their developments can achieve better designed buildings and shared spaces that benefit the community. They include:

  • the Housing Design Guide
  • the Urban Design Guide
  • the City Centre Urban Design Guide and
  • the Biodiversity Sensitive Urban Design Guide.

Developers will need to meet the requirements in the Territory Plan and outline how they have considered the design guides. The teams assessing this applications will use the design guides and the Territory Plan requirements when making a decision.

Find out more about the design guides.

Technical specifications

The interim Territory Plan also has supporting documents to provide more guidance and clarity. This includes technical specifications which are notifiable instruments that can provide guidance for aspects of a development proposal. However, the requirements and assessment outcomes which are relevant to these Technical Specifications are located in the interim Territory Plan parts listed above.

There are district specifications, zone specifications and subdivision specifications.

Find out more about technical specifications.

District Strategies

A new element of the ACT's planning system is the introduction of district strategies.

There are nine districts across Canberra. Each strategy captures the special character of its corresponding district.

These documents will help guide how Canberra will change and grow towards 2038 and beyond to 2050. This growth will be in a way that keeps the territory sustainable, competitive and liveable.

Find out more about the District Strategies.

Inquiry process for the Territory Plan

The Minister for Planning and Land Management has provided the new Territory Plan to the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport, and City Services.

The committee has since announced an inquiry for the Territory Plan.

The committee will need to provide a report to the ACT Government within 6 months from the start of the inquiry. Find out more about the independent inquiry on the Legislative Assembly website.

At the end of the inquiry process, the interim Territory Plan may be updated in response to the recommendations made by the committee. The Legislative Assembly may decide to approve an amended version of the Territory Plan or agree to no changes being made to the interim Territory Plan. The Territory Plan approved by the Assembly after the inquiry process is the final Territory Plan and will no longer be an interim plan.

Changing the Territory Plan

The new Planning Act 2023 sets out the process to review and vary the Territory Plan 2023 over time. The plan will be regularly reviewed to reflect current planning practises, ongoing development and the changing needs of the community.

The process of changing the Territory plan is through a 'plan amendment'. There are two types of 'plan amendments' under Planning Act 2023:

  • Major Plan Amendments
  • Minor Plan Amendments

Find out more about changes to the Territory Plan.

Frequently asked questions

How is the new plan different?

The Territory Plan will help to deliver a planning system that focuses on quality outcomes. Assessment of developments will focus how developments perform in their setting and how they meet the desired development outcomes. They will still have to comply with specific requirements.

The new plan will provide greater flexibility in the way developments are designed. It will allow greater emphasis on improving design quality and built outcomes for all Canberrans.

There are still parameters that development must meet, such as land use and building height.

Important changes made with the new Territory Plan are:

  • blocks over 800m2 are now able to accommodate dual occupancy developments with separate titles. Criteria applies, including that one dwelling must be 120m2 or less.
  • a new structure that contains district and zone policies
  • introduction of new supporting material such as design guides and planning technical specifications
  • a focus on the desired outcomes for development by clearly articulating the assessment outcomes that should be achieved
  • various policy changes relating to definitions, uses permitted in zones and planning requirements.

Further detail on the changes being made with the new Territory plan is provided in the Territory Plan Explanatory Report [730.6 KB] and the Territory Plan Supporting Report [927.4 KB].

How does this impact work I can undertake on my block?

Development on a block needs to comply with the requirements of the Territory Plan. However, it may be considered to be an exempt development under the Planning Exemptions Regulation 2023.

Find out what can be built on your block.

What if I already have a DA in the current system?

Development Applications submitted before 27 November 2023 were submitted through the outgoing system and will be assessed under that system. You will not need to resubmit your application or redesign it to meet the requirements of the interim Territory Plan.

Applications submitted on or after 27 November 2023 will be assessed under the new system.

Does the new interim Territory Plan support living infrastructure? How does it do this?

The new interim Territory Plan incorporates the living infrastructure provisions that were introduced in TPV 369. There are also now provisions for Commercial and Community Facility Zone, and new requirements in the Subdivision technical specifications.

The locations of these in the interim Territory Plan include:

  • Part E1 Residential Zones Policy – Section 4
    • requirements that a sufficient planting area and canopy trees are provided
    • Roofed and hard surfaces are limited to reduce urban heat island effects
    • Minimised stormwater run-off
    • A requirement to maintain ecosystem services
  • Part E1 Residential Zones Policy – Section 5
    • All types of residential development proposals in all residential zones will be required to meet the mandatory development controls relating to site coverage limits
    • When the interim Territory Plan takes effect, there will be no exceptions for mandatory living infrastructure requirements for blocks where the original Crown lease was granted on or after 1 January 2020. This is also the case for estate development plans approved on or after 1 January 2020.
  • Part E2 Commercial Zones Policy and Part E4 Community Facility Zones Policy – Section 4
    • Requirements for urban heat island effects to be reduced
    • Minimised stormwater run-off
    • Ecosystem services must be maintained through the provision of planting area and canopy trees
    • Requirements for deep soil zones are provided on site to support healthy tree growth and provide adequate room for canopy trees.
  • Territory Plan – Part G Dictionary
    • An amendment to the wording for the definition of ‘site coverage’ This is to clarify what structures are included or not.
  • Zones Planning Technical Specifications
    • No change to the planting area and tree planting area.
  • Commercial and Community Facility Zones Specifications
    • New requirements being introduced for tree canopy cover, reducing urban heat, protection from heat (early childhood education and care, educational establishment, residential care accommodation and retirement village)
  • Other Specifications – Subdivision specifications
    • New requirements being introduced for tree canopy cover, reducing urban heat (cool paving) and protection from heat (playgrounds and public seating)

Find out more

You can review the consultation process and see 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.

You can find detailed changes between the previous Territory Plan and this interim plan in the Territory Plan Explanatory Report [730.6 KB].

Related content