Skip to main content

Design Standards

Improving the design of public and private built environment


For the first time in our planning system, the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 enables the State Planning Commission to prepare Design Standards relating to the public realm or infrastructure.

Design Standards are supplementary tools for the Planning and Design Code that are linked to any spatial layer, including zones, subzones or overlays.

On 1 July 2019,  Phase 1 of the new planning system became operational in outback areas, but Design Standards do not apply.


Completed In progress Pending
  • Phase 1 of the PDI Act 2016 became operational in outback areas

    Completed July 2019


  • Design Standards determined by the Planning and Design Code, where required

  • Project scoping

Design Standards may be prepared for both the public realm and infrastructure. Under the new system, there are three main opportunities for Design Standards to be applied. These include:

  • Off-setting Contributions Schemes: applying to development contributions for public realm works.
  • Infrastructure Delivery Schemes : applying to the provision of basic infrastructure in designated growth areas.
  • Specific spatial layers or locations: applying to strategic and priority areas as specified by the Planning and Design Code, such as urban renewal precincts.

Design Standards may include:

  • design principles
  • minimum design requirements (standards)
  • design guidance with respect to any other matter.

Design Standards may also be accompanied by advisory material in the form of design manuals or guidelines.

Design Standards must be informed by the State Planning Policies and any relevant Regional Plans and Planning and Design Code policy.

In doing so, they should include minimum design requirements that comply with the intent of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. They should also support:

Design Standards should consider the following:

  • water-sensitive urban design
  • Australian Standards, Austroads Guidelines and best practice design for accessibility compliance and inclusion
  • durable materials to lower maintenance costs
  • sufficient street vegetation coordinated with the location of infrastructure
  • community identity and context of specific location.

Design Standards that are spatially applied should be targeted towards new growth areas of medium to high density, including urban renewal precincts, transit-oriented developments, and urban corridor locations.

New growth areas will be planned for in advance and identified in Regional Plans and the Planning and Design Code.

As part of the design process for these higher order instruments, Design Standards should also be prepared in consultation with the community.

The public realm is made-up of our streets, squares, parks and other places that are freely available to all of us. These places play an important role in how we all go about our daily lives. For this reason, high-quality design of the public realm is important to ensure it is safe, accessible, welcoming and meets the needs of everyone now and in the future.

High quality public places are central for supporting socially inclusive, environmentally responsible and economically sustainable communities.

It is increasingly recognised that investing in well-designed public places generates real benefits, such as stimulating urban renewal and growth in the visitor economy, raising property values and supporting local businesses.

Impacts of poorly designed streets

Streets make up around 80% of the overall public realm in cities and towns1, making them highly important places. Poorly-designed streets can negatively impact on economic development, walkability and safety.

Outcomes of poorly designed streets can include:

  • a lack of or no footpaths within street verges
  • interrupted, uneven and cluttered footpaths and shared paths
  • infrequent pedestrian crossing points
  • insufficient footpath widths for universal accessibility
  • a lack of shelter, rest areas, lighting, vegetation and street trees
  • inefficient and unsustainable stormwater management
  • uncoordinated placement of trees and infrastructure.

Current processes for the design of local roads

New roads and public realm designs are usually considered with the division of land and the regeneration and re-use of existing development sites.

The assessment of public realm designs may be considered by the relevant authority, and may not rely on any guidelines or minimum design standards.

Following construction, roads and the public realm are vested to council to maintain, which adds to the incentive for design issues to be resolved upfront rather than later to avoid ongoing costs.

Page last modified Tuesday, 27 August 2019