Planning language



An explanation of the planning terms shown in italics within each of the TOWN PLANNING FOR EVERYONE Topics appears below. The explanations give a general description only – some planning terms have more specific definitions within state and territory planning legislation.

Alternative dispute resolution – includes all dispute resolution procedures outside hearings in the state and Federal courts and tribunals, including mediation

Amenity - the pleasant or normally satisfactory aspects of a location which contribute to its overall character and the enjoyment of residents or visitors
Appeal rights - the legal right to appeal to the court against a planning authority’s decision about a development application

Biodiversity - the variety of life on earth.  Biodiversity refers to the wide variety of ecosystems and living organisms: animals, plants, their habitats and their genes 

Citizens - the corporations, government agencies, interest groups and individuals of a community

Community consultation - a two-way relationship in which government seeks and receives the views of citizens, clients or communities on policies, programs or services that affect them directly or in which they may have a significant interest

Conditions of approval – enforceable terms under which development approval is given. Conditions can limit the extent of development or how it operates, and require contributions to be paid for infrastructure needed as a result of the development

Constitution - an Act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia [9th July 1900]

Definition of land use - the selection of a description of proposed activity conducted or to be conducted on land from the list of land uses in a planning scheme or other planning instrument

Delegation – official election or appointment of a person or group of persons to represent another or others

Development – a legal definition found in each state and territory’s planning legislation. In general terms development means both physical development (including building, engineering, or mining work) and change of use of buildings or land

Development assessment – the process of assessing a development application for consistency with the plans, zones and other planning instruments applying to the development site

Development site - an area of land that is subject to a proposed development

Development tables  – specify the category of development and the type of development application required for a proposed use on a particular development site

Ecological sustainability – is a balance that integrates protection of ecological processes and natural systems; economic development; and maintenance of the cultural, economic, physical and social wellbeing of people and communities

Exempt development – the right to carry out certain limited forms of development without the need to make a development application. The term is defined in planning legislation

Existing use - the use of a building or land for a lawful purpose immediately before a planning instrument came into force. The term is defined in planning legislation

Grounds - reasons for supporting or objecting to a proposed development

Hierarchy of business centres – the nomination of different business centres according to the function they are intended to perform, such as neighbourhood, local, district, or regional business centre

High water mark - the ordinary high-water mark at spring tides

Infrastructure - public facilities and services needed to support residential, industrial, commercial and all other land use activities. It includes transportation, water and sewer, energy, telecommunications, recycling and solid waste disposal, parks and other public spaces, schools, emergency services, and health and welfare services

Land use controls – control the physical development of a city or town to secure the most efficient and effective use of land in the public interest, and to ensure that facilities like roads, schools and sewers are built where they are needed. Land use controls include zoning, development codes and standards, subdivision regulations, building codes and associated maps

Livability – of a city is defined by its environmental quality, neighbourhood amenity and the well-being of its citizens

Local area plan - a more detailed plan within a planning scheme that sets out policies and land use controls for a particular locality within a planning authority area

Natural resources – main categories of natural resources are fresh water, plants and animals, fresh air, and soils, minerals and fossil fuels

Overlays – exist to protect a particular and important aspect of land (eg vegetation, landscape character, water quality and heritage) or to show land where development cannot occur or is constrained (eg flooded land, land with steep slopes)

Planning authority – the statutory body identified in state and territory planning legislation with responsibility for preparing strategic land use plans and land use controls; for controlling development by deciding development applications; and for taking enforcement action when necessary

Planning instrument – a document formally adopted under planning legislation by state, territory or local government and used to manage the use and development of land

Planning legislation – the state and territory Acts relating to the planning system including the regulations that accompany the Acts

Planning principles – a list of appropriate matters to be considered when making a planning decision. Planning principles assist when making a planning decision if there is a gap in policy, or where policies are expressed in terms that allow for more than one interpretation. Examples of planning principles are:
  • important natural resources are preserved;
  • urban settlement is contained to ensure that roads and other infrastructure such as water, sewerage, power, and telecommunications are provided efficiently;
  • the economy is supported by maintaining a hierarchy of business centres;
  • community services, facilities and open space are fairly distributed; and
  • incompatible land uses are separated

Planning scheme – commonly known as a town plan, the planning scheme is the formally adopted document used to manage the use and development of land at a local level. Planning schemes are known under different terms throughout Australia such as Local Environmental Plans, Local Planning Schemes, Local Town Planning Schemes, or Development Plans.

Planning system – comprises the planning legislation, plans, policies, planning schemes, guidelines, decision making processes and appeal mechanisms related to the use and development of land

Public notification – formal notification of a development application to the community through advertisement in the newspaper, sign on the land and letter to adjoining landowners, advising of the opportunity to make submissions

Public interest – the common well-being or general community welfare. It is possible for acts in the public interest to disadvantage given individuals and vice versa

Referral agency - usually a government body that is required to assess a development application and provide comment to the planning authority

Regional plan – outlines the planning objectives at a regional, rather than local level and operates in conjunction with other planning instruments such as planning schemes. Regional plans can have a statutory basis, meaning they prevail over planning schemes if there is a conflict

Reserve power – the power for state or territory government to direct or override the planning powers of local councils in certain circumstances

Stakeholders – those individuals, groups or organisations having an interest in a planning decision, usually those who could be positively or negatively affected

Statutory planning – the act of controlling land uses within an area covered by a strategic land use plan (see also strategic planning)

Strategic land use plan – sets out the present and future location, form, type and extent for residential, commercial, industrial and institutional land use (also known as a strategic plan or preferred urban settlement pattern)

Strategic planning – the act of preparing strategic land use plans and associated documents used to guide land use decisions by setting out the overall vision and policies for an area and how it should be developed

Submission – a written comment either supporting or objecting to a proposed development or policy

Third party appeal rights – non-applicant appeal rights

Town planning - the art and science of ordering the use of land and the character and siting of buildings and communication routes so as to secure the maximum practicable degree of economy, convenience and amenity. Other terms are also used to describe this, such as “physical planning”, “spatial planning, “urban and regional planning” and “land use planning”

Urban design – concerns the arrangement, appearance and functionality of towns and cities, and in particular the shaping and use of public space

Urban settlement
– an area characterized by higher population density in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban settlement areas may be cities or towns, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets

Zoning - the division of a council area into defined areas with similar characteristics, particularly the type of land use (eg residential, industrial, commercial, open space). The planning scheme includes words explaining what uses are encouraged or discouraged in each zone

Want to know more?
Is there something more you want to know about this topic? Contact us with your ideas for future inclusion in TOWN PLANNING FOR EVERYONE resources.

© The Planning Academy 2011
Last updated: 27 November 2011

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