Varying the Territory Plan

Why is the Territory Plan varied?

Territory Plan Variations are changes to the policy content of the Territory Plan to:

  • better reflect the changing needs of the ACT community
  • maintain a contemporary planning system, and
  • achieve the goals and objectives of contemporary strategic planning policy

What are 'full' Variations to the Territory Plan?

Territory Plan Variations are made under Part 5.3 of the Planning and Development Act 2007 (the Act). Variations are used to make significant policy changes to the Territory Plan which are consistent with strategic planning policy. Variations can amend the Territory Plan in the following ways:

  • rezoning a specific site
  • introducing or amending planning provisions, or
  • allowing or prohibiting certain types of development

Variations can be requested by anyone, including a block owner, a government agency or the Minister for Planning.

All variations are subject to a mandatory public notification period of at least 30 working days and are ultimately reviewed by the ACT Legislative Assembly.

What is the Process?

Changes to the Territory Plan can be initiated following a change to government policy, the completion of detailed planning work for an area (e.g. Master Plans) or to facilitate suitable development to occur on a site.

If a variation is requested by the lessee of a block, a planning report is provided to outline the planning justification for the proposal. The process for the ACT Government to create and implement a Draft Variation to the Territory plan is described below.

  1. Proponent or Minister requests planning and land authority to undertake variation
  2. Scoping Document is prepared to guide planning report
  3. Planning Report is prepared and finalised in consultation with ACT Government
  4. Planning and land authority agrees to prepare a Draft Variation (DV)
  5. Internal government circulation of DV*
  6. DV released for public consultation - 6 weeks minimum
  7. Planning and land authority responds to issues raised during public consultation (report on consultation)
  8. DV and supporting documents sent to the Minister and the Standing Committee for consideration (approximately 6 months)
  9. DV may be withdrawn, revised or approved by Minister
  10. Minister tables DV in the Legislative Assembly, where it may be disallowed (wholly or in part)
  11. Commencement date is set
  12. Variation commences

*The Act requires mandatory consultation with five agencies when considering a Draft Variation:

  • National Capital Authority
  • Conservator of Flora and Fauna
  • Environment Protection Agency
  • Heritage Council; and
  • the land custodian (if any) of all potentially affected unleased land or leased public land

The position of Variations in the development process

A Territory Plan Variation does not propose or approve any specific development. If a development requires development approval, a Development Application must be submitted to the planning and land authority for consideration.

The Development Application can be lodged once the variation has commenced, or can be considered through a concurrent process. A concurrent process is beneficial where a Variation is prepared for a particular development as it enables the Development Application plans to be provided to the community while the Draft Variation is being considered. This allows the public to comment on both aspects of the proposal concurrently.

What public consultation is required to be undertaken by the planning and land authority for a Variation?

The planning and land authority is required to present all Variations to the public for a minimum of six weeks generally through an ACT Government website. This time frame is extended for a concurrent Draft Variation and Development Application process.

On certain occasions, specified by the Act, the planning and land authority is required to send out notifications to lessees notifying them of the Variation where a zone is being changed from one category to another (i.e. Residential to Commercial). This does not apply when a zone is changed to PRZ1 Urban Open Space, NUZ3 Hills Ridges and Buffer, NUZ4 River Corridor or NUZ5 mountains and bushland.

Notification is generally in the form of a letter and will be posted to lessees in sections adjoining the site that is being rezoned.

How long do Variations take to complete?

Variations are prepared by the ACT Government and can be a complex process. There are a number of statutory and non-statutory timeframes which affect how long Variations take. Variations can take between 12 and 18 months from preparation until commencement. They ultimately require the approval of the Minister for Planning and agreement by the Legislative Assembly.

Interim Effect

When a Draft Variation to the Territory Plan is prepared it has no effect on the provisions of the Territory Plan unless it specifically has interim effect. When a Variation is approved, it does not become part of the Territory Plan until it commences. Once this occurs the new provisions are introduced and can be applied to new and undetermined development applications, including concurrent development applications.

When a Variation is being prepared the Act allows interim effect to be applied to all or part of the Variation. If a Variation has interim effect it means that the proposed provisions of the Variation apply in addition to the Territory Plan. Both the Variation and the Territory Plan continue to apply for as long as the Variation has interim effect, or until it commences or is refused.

If a Variation has interim effect its rules apply to all undetermined development applications. Where a proposed provision of a Variation which has interim effect and a provision of the Territory Plan are inconsistent, the provision from the Variation will take precedence.

If a Variation and Development Application are lodged concurrently, the development cannot start until the Variation commences. However if the Variation has interim effect, the Development Application can be approved if it is consistent with the Variation.

Can I rezone my block?

One off or site specific Variations to the Territory Plan are not generally supported unless it can be demonstrated that there is an overriding public benefit or good and that it is consistent with the planning objectives of the ACT Government.

Rezoning of residential areas generally occurs as part of a wider review of planning policies rather than on a block by block basis. This ensures broader strategic planning practices and outcomes are implemented and realised.

Where it can be demonstrated that a rezoning has wide public benefit, i.e. it is consistent with strategic planning policy, a full Variation to the Territory Plan is required.

How do I know about Draft Variations that may affect me?

We encourage you to check this website periodically to ensure that you remain up to date with changes to the Territory Plan.

You can also download the DA Finder App which is equipped with the ability to push notifications and allows you to comment on Draft Variations.

What are the differences between Technical Amendments (TA's) and Draft Variations (DV's)?

Variations Technical Amendments
Prepared and progressed under Part 5.3 of the Act Prepared and progressed under Part 5.4 of the Act
No limitation on proposed changes to the Territory Plan Limited to clerical, routine or operational changes
Mandatory public consultation of no less than 30 working days Some may require public consultation of no less than 20 working days, others require no public consultation
Public submissions received must be considered and a report on consultation must be prepared Public submissions received must be considered
Prepared by ACT Government Prepared by ACT Government
Determined by the Minster for Planning Determined by ACT Government
Require the agreement of at least half the Legislative Assembly and has a disallowance period Not referred to the Legislative Assembly
Takes approximately 12 to 18 months to complete Takes approximately 1 to 3 months to complete

For further information contact terrplan@act.gov.au.

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