Agency VA 516
Town and Country Planning Board
About this Agency Records Related Functions Related Agencies
Date Range: 1946 - 1981
Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency

The Town and Country Planning Board was constituted under the Town and Country Planning Act 1944 and commenced operation early in 1946. It was established to report to and advise the Minister of Public Works (VRG 28) on the planning provisions outlined in the Act. These provisions marked the beginnings of statutory planning in Victoria.

Function and Responsibilities

The Act gave the Board a number of mainly advisory functions. The most important was in the reporting on planning schemes developed by individual or joint municipalities and submitted to the Minister for approval. Any body developing such a scheme was described in the Act as a responsible authority. Planning schemes were begun either on the municipality's(ies') own initiative or through a directive issued by the Minister. If the municipality(ies) could not submit a plan within 12 months of that directive, the Minister could direct the Board to prepare the scheme in consultation with the municipality(ies) involved, thus making the Board itself in such instances a responsible authority. The Board was also responsible for reporting on the application of interim development orders prohibiting the development of land or construction of buildings or works in any area in which preparation of a planning scheme had begun. On approval of the scheme by the Minister, the Governor-in-Council and after publication in the Government Gazette, the responsibility for the administration of the scheme lay with the agencies affected by the scheme and not the Board.

The 1944 Act also entrusted the Board with the responsibility of reporting on any housing and reclamation schemes submitted under Part XXVVII of the Local Government Act 1928. As that section of the 1928 Act was repealed by the 1946 Local Government Act, this function was short lived. However the Board was responsible for reporting on schemes relating to the acquisition of land for the opening of roads under Section 592 of the Local Government Act 1928 (Section 594 in the 1946 Act). By-laws prepared by councils relating to the prescription of residential and business areas under Section 197 of the 1946 Act were also referred to the Board.

The Board initially consisted of 3 members appointed by the Governor-in- Council with a Chairman skilled in town and country planning. The first Chairman was J. S. Gawler with other members being F. C. Cook and A. N. Kemsley.

Melbourne and Metropolitan Area Planning

The Board recognised early on that it was impractible to expect metropolitan municipalities to submit joint planning schemes. Concerned that such difficulties would prohibit co-ordinated metropolitan planning development, the Board helped initiate moves which resulted in the passing of the Town and Country Planning (Metropolitan Area) Act 1949. This Act gave the Board another advisory function, in this instance regarding the planning schemes drafted by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (VA 1007) relating to what eventually became the Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme 1954 (but not approved until 1968). Prior to the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works becoming the responsible authority for the entire metropolitan area, the Town and Country Planning Board had organised a traffic census in 1947, details of which were published as an appendix its 4th Annual Report (1948/9).

Legislative Changes 1958, 1961 and 1968

For the next two decades the Board's functions were relatively stable although in 1958 it was transferred into the newly created portfolio of the Minister for Local Government (VRG 57). Consolidating Acts, which were necessary to keep pace with the frequent changes to the provisions in the original Act, were passed in 1958 and 1961. This legislation did not have much of an impact on the Board's activities although the 1961 Act was notable for making the Board a body corporate. This meant the Board could now sue or be sued in law which was an important addition given the Board's power to draft planning schemes.

The aims of town and country planning were defined by the Board in its 16th Annual Report (1960/1) as to "ensure the orderly and co-ordinated development of a community having regard to its natural environment". However the Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Act 1968 established a three tier system of administration which aimed at providing planning at an overall State level as well as regional and local planning.

The Three Tier System from 1968

Under this Act the Town and Country Planning Board was placed at the top of the system as the first tier. A new major function was the preparation of Statements of Planning Policy which were primarily directed towards broad, general planning to facilitate the co-ordination of planning under the Act throughout the whole State by all responsible authorities. Such statements were to give regard to influences on development such as demographic, social and economic factors, conservation of natural resources, characteristics of land and land use, the environment, communications and development requirements of public authorities. The importance of this role lay in providing for the first time a co-ordinated outline of Government planning policy for responsible authorities who previously had to guess at such policy in the preparation of planning schemes.

To assist the Board in this task, the State Planning Council was established. Chaired by the Chairman of the Town and Country Planning Board, it consisted of 12 members being either the Chairman or Secretary of relevant bodies such as the Country Roads Board, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works and the State Electricity Commission. Its functions were to act as a consultant and adviser to the Board and to co-ordinate planning by State instrumentalities and semi-government authorities of future works and developments for which they were individually responsible.

The second planning tier established under the 1968 Act included both the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (VA 1007) as the responsible planning authority for the Melbourne Metropolitan area and regional planning authorities which were an innovation of the Act. Regional planning authorities could be established by the Board to prepare and carry out a planning scheme in line with the Board's statement of policy for any specified area extending beyond the boundaries of any one municipality. The participating municipalities were to provide the finance and representatives for the authority. Both the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (VA 1007) and regional planning authorities in turn had the power to delegate to municipalities within their area, powers, responsibilities and interim development orders as they saw fit. These municipalities constituted the third tier of the system.

To hear and determine all appeals against decisions by these responsible authorities relating to applications for permits under interim development orders or planning schemes, the Act also established the Town Planning Appeals Tribunal, later the Planning Appeals Board.

Once the provisions of the 1968 Act were in place, the Town and Country Planning Board interpreted its overall responsibilities as entailing;

promoting and co-ordinating town and country planning throughout Victoria
formulating and implementing Statements of Planning Policy
convening the State Planning Council and supplying services to the Council including sub-committees and working parties
preparing planning schemes for authorities who could not
advising the Minister on planning schemes submitted for approval.

The Board saw a clear distinction between its new responsibilities (the first three listed above) and its old ones. The new functions, which involved "broad strategic planning at a high level, integrating the specialised planning of Government Authorities such as transport, public utilities and education", were described as Strategic Planning. The old functions were referred to as Statutory or Schematic Planning. A director for each broad function came to be appointed. To carry out these functions the Board had a total staff of thirty four in 1968 although the Act did enlarge the composition of the Board to four with the appointment of a Deputy Chairman. Staff establishment was to increase at a slow but steady rate in succeeding years.

Strategic Planning - Regional Planning Authorities

The Board did become busy in the area of strategic planning. Four regional planning authorities were established, the Western Port Planning Authority, the Upper Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Authority, the Loddon Campaspe Regional Planning Authority and the Geelong Regional Planning Authority (whose powers were transferred in 1977 to the Geelong Regional Commission). Statements of Planning Policy were approved for Westernport, the Mornington Peninsula, Dandenong Ranges, River Yarra, highway areas, aerodromes, Geelong, Macedon Ranges, Central Gippsland brown coal deposits and the Victorian coastline. To support this activity a range of strategic studies were undertaken on a wide range of matters such as the classification of land for urban growth, open land zoning and regional studies, which aimed to define the boundaries for regional planning authorities.

Two additional strategic planning functions were provided by subsequent legislation. The first came in 1970 when the Urban Renewal Act required the Board to report on any urban renewal proposals. The other came by way of the Development Areas Act 1973. This required the Board to report on the suitability of areas earmarked for accelerated or controlled development such as the Melton/Sunbury area.

Schematic Planning

In the statutory or schematic planning sphere the Board after 1968 continued to report on planning schemes submitted by responsible authorities and on the application of interim development orders, and to prepare planning schemes for municipalities which could not do so themselves. This latter activity, as had always been the practice, was limited to areas lacking sufficient resources to produce such plans. Examples of such areas included the Maldon tourist area and Phillip Island. The Board was also responsible for reporting on amendments submitted by responsible authorities relating to the Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme.

Advisory Committee

As a means to aid the Board, the 1968 Act had also given the Board the power to constitute advisory committees. The four committees that were formed were the Yarra Valley Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee on Places of Historic Interest, the Macedon Ranges Advisory Committee and the Metropolitan Waterways Study Steering Committee.

The Board was also an active participant on numerous other committees relevant to its function. These included such diverse interests as the Place Names Committee, the Airfields Committee and the Outdoor Advertising Committee. It was also heavily involved with the Federal and New South Wales State Governments in conjunction with other State agencies in the establishment of the Albury/Wodonga Development Corporation.

Creation of Ministry of Planning 1973

In 1973 the administration of the Town and Country Planning Act passed to the newly created portfolio of the Minister of Planning (VRG 65). The Ministry of Planning (VA 600) which operated as a branch of the Local Government Department (VA 601), was charged with the task of co-ordinating the various agencies within the planning structure, including the Town and Country Planning Board. In view of its expanding activity branches of the Board were opened in Warrnambool, Bendigo, Traralgon and Wodonga. By 1976 staffing had increased to one hundred and fifteen persons.

In February 1976 the State Planning Council ceased operation in line with a 1975 Cabinet decision to broaden its charter by giving it a major role in the co-ordination and integration of the activities of all departments. This was achieved by the creation of the State Co-ordination Council under the 1975 Act of the same name. This Council met for the first time in April 1976. It continued to assist the Board as the State Planning Council had done, although in line with its expanded activity it was now accountable to the Premiers Department (VA 2717).

Abolition of the Board 1980

The Board was abolished when the Town & Country Planning (Amalgamation) Act 1980 merged the functions of the Board and the Ministry for Planning to create the Department of Planning. The Board's regional offices were taken over by the new department.

Location of Records

Some records of the Board are held at the Public Record Office.

See also List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.15.1.

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Record series created by this AgencyRecord series created by this Agency
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Date Range Series Title Series Number Series Location Public Access
? 1966 - ? 1968 Report on the Future Growth of Melbourne VPRS 3188 North Melbourne Open
1946 - ? 1968 Melbourne and Metropolitan Planning Scheme Records VPRS 3186 North Melbourne Open
1946 - 1968 Planning Scheme General Files, Municipality VPRS 3185 North Melbourne Open
1946 - 1968 Planning Schemes and Amendments, Files VPRS 4697 North Melbourne Open
1946 - 1988 Planning Scheme Record Cards VPRS 16121 North Melbourne Open
1946 - 1988 Maps: Country Victoria Planning Schemes, Interim Development Orders (IDOs) and Amendments from 1946 to Day One, 16 February 1988 VPRS 16131 North Melbourne Open
1947 - 1947 Traffic Census Returns (Prahran) VPRS 12150 North Melbourne Open
1954 - ? 1961 Report on Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme 1954 VPRS 3187 North Melbourne Open
1969 - 1976 General Correspondence Files, Annual Single Number System VPRS 4739 North Melbourne Open
1969 - 1977 Interim Development Orders, Files VPRS 4698 North Melbourne Open
1974 - 1975 Reports, Consquential to Development Areas Act 1973 (No. 8524) VPRS 3636 North Melbourne Open
By 1959 - 1977 Applications For Permits VPRS 3184 North Melbourne Open
Functions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibility
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Date of Responsibility Function Title Function Number
- 1981 Planning schemes (to 1988) VF 186
- 1981 Planning (to 1988) VF 329
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1946 - 1958 Public Works VRG 28
1958 - 1973 Local Government I VRG 57
1973 - 1981 Planning I VRG 65