Environmental planning

Environmental planning is the process of facilitating decision making to carry out land development with the consideration given to the natural environment, social, political, economic and governance factors and provides a holistic framework to achieve sustainable outcomes. A major goal of environmental planning is to create sustainable communities, which aim to conserve and protect undeveloped land.[1]


Environmental planning concerns itself with the decision making processes where they are required for managing relationships that exist within and between natural systems and human systems. Environmental planning endeavors to manage these processes in an effective, orderly, transparent and equitable manner for the benefit of all constituents within such systems for the present and for the future. Present day environmental planning practices are the result of continuous refinement and expansion of the scope of such decision making processes. Some of the main elements of present-day environmental planning are:

The environmental planning assessments encompass areas such as land use, socio-economics, transportation, economic and housing characteristics, air pollution, noise pollution, the wetlands, habitat of the endangered species, flood zones susceptibility, coastal zones erosion, and visual studies among others, and is referred to as an Integrated environmental planning assessment.[2] It is the ability to analyze environmental issues that will facilitate critical decision making.

North America

United States

In the United States, for any project, environmental planners deal with a full range of environmental regulations from federal to state and city levels, administered federally by the Environmental Protection Agency.[3] A rigorous environmental process has to be undertaken to examine the impacts and possible mitigation of any construction project. Depending on the scale and impact of the project, an extensive environmental review is known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and the less extensive version is Environmental Assessment (EA). Procedures follow guidelines from National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and/or City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR), and other related federal or state agencies published regulations.

The Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP) is a non-profit organization of interdisciplinary professionals including environmental science, resource management, environmental planning and other professions contributing to this field. AEP is the first organization of its kind in the USA, and its influence and model have spawned numerous other regional organizations throughout the United States. Its mission is to improve the technical skills of members, and the organization is dedicated to "the enhancement, maintenance and protection of the natural and human environment". From inception in the mid-1970s the organization has been closely linked with the maintenance of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), due to California being one of the first states to adopt a comprehensive legal framework to govern the environmental review of public policy and project review.


In the Philippines, the Republic Act 10587 governs the practice of Environmental Planning. The law defines Environmental Planning as "a multi-disciplinary art and science of analyzing, specifying, clarifying, harmonizing, managing and regulating the use and development of land and water resources, in relation to their environs, for the development of sustainable communities and ecosystems.". It is sometimes referred to as urban and regional planning, city planning, town and country planning, and/or human settlements planning.

An Environmental Planner is a person who is registered and licensed to practice environmental planning and who holds a valid Certificate of Registration and a valid Professional Identification Card from the Board of Environmental Planning and the Professional Regulation Commission of the Republic of the Philippines. To be a licensed planner, one must prove that he/she has at least 2 years planning experience or a master's degree in a relevant field of study aside from a bachelor's degree in Engineering, Architecture, Economics, and other related Social Sciences. Areas of competency for planners are:

  1. Physical Planning
  2. Social Planning
  3. Economic Planning
  4. Planning Law and Administration; and
  5. Special Planning Studies.

There is a current move to require in five years time the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Planning as a requisite for one to be a licensed environmental planner. As of this writing, the curriculum for BS Environmental Planning is being reviewed by the Board of Environmental Planning and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

The only accredited organization for environmental planners in the Philippines is the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP).

Scope of Practice. – REPUBLIC ACT NO. 10587 The practice of environmental planning, within the meaning and intent of this Act, shall embrace the following:

  1. Providing professional services in the form of technical consultation, rendering of technical advice, plan preparation, capacity building and monitoring and evaluation of implementation involving the following:
    1. National, regional or local development and/or physical framework and comprehensive land-use plans;
    2. Zoning and related ordinances, codes and other legal issuances for the development and management, preservation, conservation, rehabilitation, regulation and control of the environment, including all land, water, air and natural resources;
    3. Planning and development of a barangay, municipality, city, province, region or any portion or combination thereof; and
    4. Development of a site for a particular need or special purpose, such as economic or ecological zones; tourism development zones; and housing and other estate development projects, including the creation of any other spatial arrangement of buildings, utilities, transport and communications;
  1. In relation to any of the activities enumerated in paragraph (1) above, preparing the following studies:
    1. Pre-feasibility, feasibility and other related concerns;
    2. Environmental assessments; and
    3. Institutional, administrative or legal systems;
  2. Curriculum and syllabi development in licensure examinations for environmental planners and teaching in academic institutions and conducting review courses in environmental planning;
  3. Serving as expert witness, resource person, lecturer, juror or arbitrator in hearings, competitions, exhibitions and other public fora; conduct of hearings, competitions, exhibits and other public fora;
  4. Ensuring compliance with environmental laws including the acquisition of regulatory permits.
    The Professional Regulatory Board, subject to approval of the Professional Regulation Commission, may add to, or exclude from, this section any activity or act of professional practice, or revise it as the need arises to conform to changes and new developments brought about by the latest trends in environmental planning; and
  5. Perform other acts or conduct other activities that may be determined by the Board, subject to approval by the Professional Regulation Commission in light of the trend of the practice of the profession.



Table 1.0 depicts the changes of focus in planning over the last 300 years in Australia, which has evolved from an amenity and resource use focus to an integrated approach which espouses the stewardship of natural systems for the continued long term viability of both human and natural systems.

Table 1.0: Changes of planning focus [4]
Public InterestResourceResource and Environmental ProtectionEnvironment Protection Acts and EIAIntegrated Natural Resource ManagementIntegrated Land use, Environment and Natural Resource Planning and Management
Late 1770s1960s – 1980s1970s – 1980s1980s – 1990s1990s
Health, common lawResource development (Utilitarian)Reducing environmental impacts of resource developmentSpecific environment protection legislation and agenciesConsolidated natural resource legislation and agenciesIntegration of national, State, regional and local levels of plans / policies / roles
PollutionPrivate rightsPollution controlICM and Land-care increased regional focusComprehensive and strategic planning / policies incorporating natural resource management, land-use planning and environmental management
Parks and reserves, conservationEIAIncreased powers of EP legislation (Penalties)Integrated regional planning
Environment protection policiesIncorporation with planningNational and state planning strategies
Regional economic development planning land use and resources integrated but low environment priorityEnvironment clearly definedBroader responses to EP legislationIncreased local government responsibilities in planning and environmental management
Resource laws amended or new laws (Utility still paramount)Some reference to planning (still narrow / specific focus) ESD EMS BMP Environmental valuesEnvironmental priorities raisedBio-regional planning? -> 2000+
SettlementDevelopmentResponses to environmental and public pressures : integration
Increased public awareness / participation, international agreements national legislation, policies, measures, strategies ESD; national, State, local roles clarified,environmental values recognised social, cultural, heritage and equity values recognised

Regulatory framework

Relevant environment protection, planning & administering agencies and legislation at the level of commonwealth, states & territories are as shown in table below. Environmental planning policies vary from state to state.

Table 2.0: Key environment protection, planning legislation in Australia.[5]
JurisdictionLegislationAdministering Agency
CommonwealthEnvironment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts
South AustraliaDevelopment Act 1993Department of Planning & Local Government
Development Regulations 2008Department of Environment & Heritage
Department of Environment & Natural ResourcesEnvironment Protection Authority
New South WalesEnvironmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979NSW Department of Planning
Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000Department of Urban Affairs & Planning
Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Act 2008
VictoriaPlanning and Environment Act 1987Department of Infrastructure
Planning and Environment Regulations 2005Department of Planning & Community development
Planning and Environment (Fees) Regulations 2000Environment Protection Authority
Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009Department of Transport
Transport Integration ActDepartment of Transport
QueenslandIntegrated Planning Act 1997Department of Infrastructure and Planning
Integrated Planning Regulation 1998Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
Sustainable Planning Act 2009
TasmaniaLand Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water & Environment
State Policies and Projects Act 1993
Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal Act 1993
Resource Planning and Development Commission Act 1997
Western AustraliaPlanning and Development Act 2005Department of Environment & Conservation
Planning and Development (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2005Department of Planning & Infrastructure
Metropolitan Region Improvement Tax Amendment Act 2005
Australian Capital TerritoryPlanning and Development Act 2007The Planning & Land Authority


The incorporation of environmental considerations in land-use planning in Australia began after the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972. One of the key principles developed in reference to planning and human activity was:

Principle 13 In order to achieve a more rational management of resources and thus to improve the environment, States should adopt an integrated and coordinated approach to their development planning so as to ensure that development is compatible with the need to protect and improve environment for the benefit of their population.UNEP

Previous to this conference the United States Congress passed National Environmental Policy Act, which created a process whereby government agencies were required to publicly state and justify the environmental impacts of their development proposals by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS structure was further developed by Burchell and Listokin (1975), and this approach has informed the development of environmental impact regulation worldwide (Beer 1977), and resulted in the development of legislation within several Australian states.

Recent environmental planning processes

New South Wales

In NSW the first attempt to incorporate environmental assessment and protection into planning law began in 1974 with the appointment of a Planning and Environment Commission to overhaul the existing predominately urban land-use system. After various delays the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) came into force on 1 September 1980. The EP&A Act incorporated a three tired system of State, Regional and Local levels of significance, and required the relevant control authority to take into consideration the impacts to the environment (both natural and built) and the community of proposed development or land-use change. Within the EP&A Act most development requires a Statement of Environmental Effects (SEE) or Review of Environmental Effects (REF) detailing the impacts to both natural and human environments, which should be taken into consideration by the regulatory authority. Significant projects require a more thorough Environmental Impact Assessment with a corresponding greater public scrutiny.

Concurrent with this development was the establishment of a parallel legal system, the Land and Environment Court, to arbitrate disputes. The EP&A Act has been amended over time, generally giving the government, acting through the Minister, greater powers to determine approval of development, particularly large projects of 'State Significance', but also to incorporate specific environmental laws, such as the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (Park 2010).


The Environment Effects Act 1978 was the first environmental planning control in Victoria, and it assessed the environmental impact of significant developments via an Environmental Effects Statement (EES). However the obligation for presenting an EES remained somewhat unclear and is ultimately at the discretion of the Minister for Planning (Eccles and Bryant 2007). The Planning and Environment Act 1987 created a statewide nested planning process, Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) which has within the statewide objectives:

"the protection of natural and man-made resources and the maintenance of ecological processes and genetic diversity" (PaE Act 1987, s4(1))

To achieve these ends, the VPP includes several overarching policy frameworks, including the identification of important environmental values and assets, such as 'protection of catchments, waterways and groundwater', 'coastal areas' and 'Conservation of native flora and fauna'. Below this level, local planning schemes identify land-uses through Zone designation, and also identify land affected by other criteria, called 'overlays'. Overlays include environmental parameters such as 'Environmental Significance', 'Vegetation Protection', 'Erosion Management' and 'Wildfire Management', but also social issues like 'Neighbourhood Character'. Below this again are various regulations on particular issues, such as details pertaining to regulation of areas of Native Vegetation DSE Victoria

Reform has occurred to the Victorian framework in recent years aimed at improving land use and transport outcomes including consideration of environmental impacts. The Transport Integration Act[6] identifies key planning agencies as interface bodies required to have regard to a vision for the transport system and objectives and decision making principles if decisions are likely to have a significant impact on Victoria's transport system. In addition, the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009[7] establishes a scheme to improve the approval and delivery of major rail, road and ports projects.

South Australia

Planning in South Australia is coordinated within the Development Act 1993. Under this law most urban and land-use planning is assessed against local plans of allowed development. The Minister must declare a proposed development either 'Major Development' or a 'Major Project' for it to be subjected to greater depth of environmental assessment and public consultation, via an independent Development Assessment Commission of experts. Complex proposals will generally require an indepth EIS. Planning SA


The Integrated Planning Act 1997[8] vested most planning control with local government, but required 'significant projects' to be assessed by a State Coordinator General and usually required an environmental impact statement (EIS).[9]

This has been replaced by the Sustainable Planning Act 2009[10] which came into force 18 December 2009. This law aims to 'improve sustainable environmental outcomes through streamlined processes', and incorporates Statewide, Regional and local planning hierarchies, which follow the model of Victoria's VPP. The Coordinator General may still declare projects to be 'significant projects' which then require assessment under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (Qld).[11]

Key milestones and decisions

1973Growth Centres (Financial Assistance) Act 1973*This act enabled the establishment of entities within Australian States to manage the release of land and undertake planning, urban development and infrastructure development in an orderly manner.
1974Urban & Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974*Established to provide financial assistance to states for the purpose of urban and regional development.
1975Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975*The main object of this Act is to provide for the long term protection and conservation of the environment, biodiversity and heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef Region.
1978The Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978*This is the primary legislation under which the division of The Supervising Scientist monitors, advices on, and manages environmental protection related activities in relation to uranium extraction and processing in Australia.
1979Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979**NSW environment planning and assessment legislation which recognised the importance of a comprehensive interpretation of the environment in relation to development planning.
1983Commonwealth blocks the construction of the Franklin river Dam in Tasmania.In 1982 Tasmanians elected a Liberal Government for the first time ever. The Premier, Robin Gray, had campaigned on building the Franklin Dam. In 1983, the then Labor Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, took the Tasmanian Government to the High Court. It decided by just one vote to allow the Federal Government to stop Tasmania building the dam.
1991Madrid Protocol is created in recognition of Antarctica as the last great wilderness on earth.In recognition of Antarctica as the last great wilderness on earth the Madrid Protocol was created under the Antarctic Treaty System in 1991 to make certain mutually agreed resolutions on the environment legally binding upon member nations.
1993Native Title Act 1993*This Act recognises the occupation of Australia by indigenous peoples prior to European settlement.
1994National Environment Protection Council Act 1994*The Commonwealth, the States, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and the Australian Local Government Association have entered into an Agreement known as the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment setting out certain responsibilities of each party in relation to the environment.
1995Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995*Established to provide financial assistance to local government.
1995Publication of Australian Model Code for Residential Development (AMCORD) 1995 by the Australian Government.A comprehensive model code developed for the purpose of providing model guidelines for residential development controls.
1997Protection of the Environment (Operations) Act 1997**A significant environmental protection legislation introduced by the State of NSW, under which a polluter with the highest likelihood maybe retrospectively held liable for damages.
1998Formation of Development Assessment Forum (DAF)The Development Assessment Forum (DAF) was formed in 1998 to recommend ways to streamline development assessment and cut red tape - without sacrificing the quality of the decision making. The Forum's membership includes the three spheres of government - the Commonwealth, State/Territory and Local Government; the development industry; and related professional associations.
1999Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999*Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The EPBC Act is the Australian Governments central piece of environmental legislation. It provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places defined in the Act as matters of national environmental significance. The Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts is required, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, to table a report in Parliament every five years on the State of the Environment (SOE).
2000Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000*This Act was established to:
(a) to encourage the additional generation of electricity from renewable sources; and
(b) to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the electricity sector; and
(c) to ensure that renewable energy sources are ecologically sustainable.
2001The Environment Protection and Heritage Council of Australia and New Zealand was established in June 2001 by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).The Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) addresses broad national policy issues relating to environmental protection, particularly in regard to air, water, and waste matters. The EPHC also addresses natural, Indigenous and historic heritage issues. The EPHC incorporates the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC). The NEPC is a statutory body under the NEPC Acts of the Commonwealth, the states and the territories. The NEPC meets simultaneously with the EPHC. The NEPC Service Corporation provides support and assistance to both EPHC and NEPC.
2002New South Wales State Environmental Planning Policy 65** - Quality of Residential Flat Development released in 2002.This act was introduced to ensure the maintenance if design quality in residential flat buildings and thereby improve the quality of urban high density living.
2004New South Wales State Environmental Planning Policy** - Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) 2004 is released.This act was introduced to ensure adherence to minimum levels of sustainable design in residential development in the areas of water use, thermal comfort and energy use.
2005AusLink (National Land Transport) Act 2005*The object of this Act is to assist national and regional economic and social development by the provision of Commonwealth funding aimed at improving the performance of land transport infrastructure.
2005Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005*Under this act the Water Efficiency Labelling and standards (WELS) scheme was implemented to improve water use efficiency nationally for a variety of devices. The Australian Government administers the scheme in cooperation with state and territory governments, which have complementary legislation to ensure national coverage.
2007Water Act 2007*For more than a century our greatest system of rivers and aquifers, the Murray-Darling Basin, was managed between five states and territories, each of which has had competing interests. The Water Act provides the capacity to meet the future challenges facing water management in the Murray-Darling Basin, one of the nations great assets.
2007The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007*This Act was passed in September 2007 establishing a mandatory corporate reporting system for greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and production.
2007Tamar Valley pulp mill development approved in 2007.The Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2007 approved the controversial plan for a pulp mill in Tasmania's Tamar Valley, with 48 conditions. The nature of conditions imposed provides the commonwealth the power to exert influence on development based on environmental outcomes.
2008The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is established.The Murray–Darling Basin Authority's principal aim is to manage the Basin's water resources in the national interest. The establishment of the MDBA means that, for the first time, a single agency is now responsible for planning integrated management of the water resources of the Murray–Darling Basin.
2008Formation of Infrastructure Australia.Infrastructure Australia 2008. Infrastructure Australia has the primary function of providing advice to the Minister, Commonwealth, State, Territory and local governments, investors in infrastructure and owners of infrastructure on matters relating to infrastructure, including in relation to the following:
(a) Australia’s current and future needs and priorities relating to nationally significant infrastructure;
(b) policy, pricing and regulatory issues that may impact on the utilisation of infrastructure;
(c) impediments to the efficient utilisation of national infrastructure networks;
(d) options and reforms, including regulatory reforms, to make the utilisation of national infrastructure networks more efficient;
(e) the needs of users of infrastructure;
(f) mechanisms for financing investment in infrastructure.
2009Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) fails to pass through Australian Parliament.The pricing of Carbon via an emissions trading scheme was acknowledged as a necessity by both major political parties of Australia prior to 2007general election. However the proposed legislation in relation to an emissions trading scheme proved to be unpopular among some sections of the political realm.
2009Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Act 2009*In August 2009, the Government implemented the Renewable Energy Target (RET) Scheme, which is designed to deliver on the Government’s commitment to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply will come from renewable sources by 2020.
2010Transport Integration ActIn July 2010, the Victorian Government commenced a scheme to reform land use and transport activity across the state. The Act promotes strong policy, planning and operational connections between planning and transport decisions and has a sustainability theme which includes emphasis on environmental outcomes.


Over the past decade the European Union has given the environmental more attention with more strict legislation on such issues as air, soil, and water pollution as well regulations for toxic and hazardous substances. Currently over 18% of the territory belonging to the EU is denoted as protected areas for nature.[12] To date, the European Union's Environmental Policy is determined by the 7th Environmental Action Programme and is expected to be followed up through 2020. The EU has goals beyond this however and hopes by 2050 to have an "innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience."[13]

The EU has three core objectives to help achieve this vision: conservation of natural resources, conversion to an efficient, environmentally sustainable economy, and protection of the health of citizens.[13]

Professional qualifications

Environmental planning qualifications are offered in a number of forms by various universities throughout the world.

The following are some of the qualifications offered by tertiary education institutions:

See also




  1. Beathley, Timothy (1995). "Planning and Sustainability: The elements of a new paradigm". Journal of Planning Literature. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  2. p.160, Petts
  3. p.1, Environmental planning for communities
  4. (p89, Conacher and Conacher 2000)
  5. Cited in Conacher & Conacher "Environmental Planning & Management In Australia". Updated from various websites(Sep 2010)
  6. Transport Integration Act 2010
  7. Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009
  8. Now repealed and available at http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/Repealed/repealed_I.htm
  9. Per the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 available at http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/S/StateDevA71.pdf
  10. Available at http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/S/SustPlanA09.pdf
  11. See section 26 of that Act available at http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/S/StateDevA71.pdf
  12. "Environment Action Programme to 2020 - Environment - European Commission". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  13. 1 2 "Environment Action Programme to 2020" (PDF). Europa. European Commission. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  14. "Planning Program". yorku.ca.


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