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How we plan in Queensland – evolving with the changing community

How we plan in Queensland – evolving with the changing community

Queensland is experiencing exponential growth. Not only is the population growing, it’s changing and that requires an outcomes-based approach to the way in which we plan the cities, towns, regions and suburbs these people call home.

What is planning?

You may have heard the phrase ‘urban planning’ or of the profession ‘town planner’ before – but what role does ‘planning’ play in the lives of Queenslanders? Planning is how we manage growth and change in cities, towns and regions across the state to ensure better outcomes for people, places, the environment and economy.

The Queensland Government and councils guide how land will be used now and in the future, and what associated infrastructure is required. Planning encompasses:

How do we plan for a better Queensland?

All planning in Queensland is underpinned by legislation, which establishes the planning framework, comprised of three systems:

The Queensland Government’s planning interests are outlined in the State Planning Policy (SPP), categorised into five themes:

  • Liveable communities and housing – housing supply and diversity, liveable communities.
  • Economic growth – agriculture, development and construction, mining and extractive resources, tourism.
  • Environment and heritage – biodiversity, coastal environment, cultural heritage, water quality.
  • Safety and resilience to hazards – emissions and hazardous activities, natural hazards, risk and resilience.
  • Infrastructure - energy and water supply, infrastructure integration, transport infrastructure, strategic airports and aviation facilities, strategic ports.

Who is responsible for planning in Queensland?

In Queensland, planning is a joint effort between the councils and the Queensland Government. The Department of Housing, Local Government, Planning  and Public Works is the custodian of the overarching planning framework; working with Queensland’s 77 councils to ensure state and local interests are integrated into planning schemes to guide the future shape of our communities. The department collaborates with other agencies for technical expertise to implement a whole-of-government approach to planning. For example, the Department of Environment and Science, which specialises in the natural environment, .

Industry and the community also play a role in planning for the future, by getting involved when there is a new state or local government policy or plan, or when these instruments are being amended. The community can also have their say on certain proposed developments, when a development application is assessed.

What is a local planning scheme and how does it affect my neighbourhood?

Every local government in Queensland prepares a local planning scheme to guide development in the area, over time. It provides residents, businesses and governments with a shared vision for the community. Localised planning is essential for ensuring built forms complement the setting and desired character of the area.

Local planning schemes should encourage a diverse mix of housing options to accommodate residents at different life stages. Zones outlined in the scheme, indicate to the community what the land in their neighbourhood will likely be used for. This affects the land they rent or own and what neighbours can do with the surrounding land.

Community members have an opportunity to provide feedback on proposed changes to local planning schemes.

When are development applications required?

All potential development in Queensland falls into three categories:

  • Accepted development: Local planning schemes outline development which is compatible with the area. Such development is considered low risk, so development approval is not required.
  • Assessable development: Development that requires an approval before it can occur. There are two categories of assessable development:
    • Code assessment: assessed against the benchmarks in the local planning scheme and public notification is not required. For example, a multiple dwelling unit in a medium density residential zone.
    • Impact assessment: this generally applies to development that may impact on the amenity of adjoining land uses and public notification is required.
  • Prohibited development: this type of development is not allowed under any circumstance. Only the state government can say what is prohibited development.

Why do regional plans exist in Queensland?

Regional plans provide a spatial representation of how different regions, encompassing multiple local government areas (LGAs) will grow and respond to change. These plans encourage councils to coordinate and consider opportunities across LGA boundaries, as opposed to isolated solutions. Regional plans help manage conflict between land uses, prioritise key infrastructure, guide investment and maintain the natural environment.

For example, ShapingSEQ, the South East Queensland regional plan released in 2017, detailed plans for managing growth in the region spanning 12 LGAs for the next 25 years. A commitment was made in October 2022 to review the plan to respond to immediate growth management and housing needs.

Why might the plan in my area change? The necessity of flexibility

Areas can change over time and there is no one size fits all approach for every community. That’s why Queensland’s planning framework allows for development that may be different to what the planning scheme envisages for an area. This occurs where the development can still deliver the core outcomes sought by that planning scheme.

Local government can respond to a specific changing or emerging localised planning issue by preparing a Temporary Local Planning Instrument. This may be used to protect a culturally significant building, or mandate requirements for an area affected by a natural disaster, like flooding, until the planning scheme can be changed.

How can the community have their say?

The best way to influence future development in your area is to provide feedback during the plan-making stage. For example, when a local planning scheme or regional plan is being prepared or amended.

Queensland’s plan-making dashboard highlights the plan-making processes being undertaken by local governments. You can make a written submission when your local planning scheme is open for consultation.

Anyone can submit comments to support or oppose any type of development application. Most councils have online portals that show what development applications are currently open for feedback. For impact assessable applications these are called 'submissions' and anyone who has made a submission during the assessment process has the right to appeal the decision.

How do I find out the plan for my suburb?

Contact your local government to discover your local planning scheme. Councils use a variety of methods to engage their constituents and provide updates, such as their website, newsletters and social media profiles.

Want to learn more about planning in Queensland?

Planning is a comprehensive topic, so there are various terms you may come across when engaging with plans in Queensland. You can explore other aspects of planning in detail, including:

  • Priority Development Areas - parcels of land within Queensland identified to deliver significant benefits to the community.
  • Development applications - All development applications go through a standard assessment process to make sure they are assessed equitably.
  • City Deals – Collaboration between federal, state and local governments to deliver measurable improvements to Australians' quality of life.
  • State development area (SDA) - Defined areas of land identified by Queensland’s Coordinator-General to promote economic development, subject to a development scheme.
  • Master plans - Detailed plans relating to a suburb or a specific precinct. It may apply to a series of development applications delivered in stages.

Last updated: 09 Feb 2024