Policy last updated
27 September 2021
- All Department staff
This policy provides an overview of the circumstances and methods by which the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) acquires new land for schools.
- The VSBA regularly purchases land in response to changing educational needs and demand for government schools across Victoria.
- The VSBA carries out all its land purchases on behalf of the Minister for Education, in compliance with the .
- The Department may acquire land through acquisition by agreement, at auction or by compulsory acquisition.
- Further information on the key factors considered when assessing proposed new government school sites can be found in the Victorian Government School Site Selection Criteria Guidance available on the .
- This policy falls within the 'Plan' stage of the School Asset Lifecycle.
The educational needs and demand for government schools across Victoria changes over time.
The VSBA may address an increase in forecasted demand by acquiring land to construct a new school or to extend the capacity of an existing school. The VSBA analyses demographic demand forecasts to determine the need for new land.
Each proposed government school site brings with it a range of risks, opportunities and constraints and its suitability needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis
The VSBA carries out all its land purchases on behalf of the Minister for Education, in compliance with the Victorian Government land transactions policy and guidelines. Funding for land purchases may be provided through the State Budget or other sources such as the Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution. The Government Land Monitor (VGLM) must approve land purchases valued at $750,000 or above.
All land acquired for education purposes is subject to stringent site suitability assessments to ensure that it is appropriate for sensitive use.
Victorian Government School Site Selection Criteria Guidance
The Victorian Government School Site Selection Criteria Guidance (the Guidance) contains information on the key factors considered by the Department when assessing proposed government school site options once the need for a proposed government school site has been identified within a specific area.
The Guidance is intended for use by internal Departmental teams, and as a reference for urban planners and designers, developers, other government agencies and local Councils. It also aims to provide school communities and broader communities with the reassurance that the selection of a proposed government school site is based on a comprehensive assessment of the site’s suitability.
Methods of acquisition
The Department may acquire land through the following methods:
- Acquisition by agreement: the VSBA agrees to purchase land (on behalf of the Minister for Education) from a land owner with an agreed contract of sale
- Acquisition at auction: the VSBA (on behalf of the Minister for Education) may purchase land at a public auction. This is not very common and usually only occurs for site extensions
- Compulsory acquisition: the Minister for Education may compulsorily acquire land pursuant to the statutory process contained in the
Regardless of the method of acquisition, the Minister may only purchase land for an amount approved by the Valuer-General Victoria. The VGLM must also approve the purchase if the land value is $750,000 or more.
Victorian Government School Site Selection Criteria Guidance
The department works in collaboration with a range of stakeholders such as the Victorian Planning Authority and local government to determine the number and location of proposed schools likely to be required to meet the needs of growing communities.
Once the need for a proposed government school site has been identified within a specific area, the department considers a range of principles and requirements when selecting the site.
Each proposed government school site brings with it a range of risks, opportunities and constraints and its suitability needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The department also seeks to consult with key stakeholders including the Victorian Planning Authority, government departments, the relevant local council and other stakeholders when selecting proposed government school sites.
The Victorian Government School Site Selection Criteria Guidance (the Guidance) outlines the key factors considered by the department when assessing proposed government school site options. It aims to provide school communities and broader communities with the reassurance that the selection of a proposed government school site is based on a comprehensive assessment of the site’s suitability.
How to use the Guidance
The Guidance is intended for use by internal departmental teams, and as a reference for urban planners and designers, developers, other government agencies and local councils.
The site selection criteria for proposed government school sites are not intended to be used as a benchmark by which existing schools are assessed and only apply to the selection of new school sites. This Guidance is to be read in conjunction with the department’s which sets the minimum quality criteria for new construction, refurbishment and maintenance works.
The identification of a proposed government school site based on the department’s School Site Selection Criteria described in this Guidance does not necessarily represent any commitment to the delivery of the proposed school by the department, nor does the identification of a proposed government school site necessarily create an obligation for the department to acquire the land.
In addition to the School Site Selection Criteria general principles and requirements detailed in this Guidance and associated resources, there may be extra site and precinct specific requirements that the department will consider on a case-by-case basis during the preparation of a precinct structure plan, structure plan, masterplan or other land use planning strategy.
Where necessary, especially due to natural constraints and limitations, the department may consider alternative options as appropriate. The department recognises that in planning decision-making, choices need to be made depending on the context and circumstance.
This Guidance does not substitute consultation with the department. The department should be consulted from the early stages of the strategic planning process to ensure that all relevant requirements, including unique and precinct specific issues are identified and assessed in selecting proposed government school sites.
This Guidance is not applicable to existing government school sites or proposed government school sites selected prior to the development of the School Site Selection Criteria.
Site selection requirements for non-government schools and other educational facilities are not considered in this Guidance, these should be obtained from relevant educational providers.
School Site Selection Criteria – general principles
The School Site Selection Criteria outline a range of general principles that the department considers when selecting a school site. Different site features influence whether or not a particular principle will be considered.
The site features considered by the department include but are not limited to the following:
- sites size
- site shape and orientation
- co-location with open space and community facilities
- the surrounding road network
- potential hazards
- other factors that require further assessment on case-by-case basis for each of the sites being considered for government school provision.
The principles the department considers when assessing various school site features are outlined below.
Location (school catchment, surrounding uses)
New school sites are generally best located close to the residential areas which generate student population, and near activity centres, where joint/shared use opportunities are greatest, and facilities are easily accessed by the community.
New school sites should not be located next or in close proximity to, any use that may be in conflict with the requirements of a safe school environment.
Ensuring new school sites are located centrally within their catchments will help to encourage walking to and from school. This also provides a focal point for the local community surrounding the school.
It is also important to ensure that schools of the same type, for example primary schools, are appropriately distributed throughout the area and have catchment areas that are distinct from surrounding schools to ensure each school can maintain sustainable long-term enrolments.
Where possible, school sites should be co‑located with other existing or proposed community facilities and public open spaces. This will enable schools to join with local government and community organisations to explore sharing facilities and using school infrastructure to benefit the wider community. This will also enable the delivery of integrated facilities, where this is desired.
Access (cycling, walking, public transport)
New school sites should be in a location that is accessible for the students who will likely attend the school.
Ensuring the provision of a permeable, direct and safe street network prioritising walking and cycling to school, and the provision of safe walking and cycling routes to the new school site helps to encourage the use of sustainable transport options. The provision of safe and convenient crossing points for connector roads, local streets at intersections and on key desire lines is also essential.
New school sites should be linked to the proposed cycling and walking network in the area to ensure safe and convenient access by walking and cycling and allow for increased connectivity and accessibility.
For new secondary schools, proximity to public transport networks will help to encourage use of public transport for journeys to and from the school.
Access (street design network, traffic movement)
New school sites should be located on connector roads to ensure that the surrounding street network is able to accommodate on-street indented parking (that can incorporate a student drop-off zone) and two-way traffic movement in addition to other street functions to facilitate safety and efficiency of traffic and pedestrian movement, especially at school pick-up and drop-off times.
Roads abutting new school sites should also be designed to achieve slow vehicle speeds and provide designated pedestrian crossing points in the vicinity of the school site.
New school sites should not be located on arterial roads (declared or undeclared). This is to minimise the impact of busy roads on school sites and improve the amenity and safety of schools.
Site characteristics (size, shape, orientation, ownership)
Standard new school site sizes, inclusive of built form and open space, are applied.
New school sites should be substantially regular in shape, that is, generally square/rectangular to ensure that opportunities for efficient layout of buildings and outdoor facilities are not compromised.
The orientation of new school sites should provide appropriate solar access, with minimal overshadowing from adjacent built form.
To reduce complications associated with site acquisition, a site proposed for a new school should ideally be owned by one sole owner/developer.
Consideration should also be given to whether the ownership of surrounding land could jeopardise the delivery of the public infrastructure that will be required to ensure the site is accessible and suitable for the department’s proposed use. Public infrastructure includes public roads, reserves or other infrastructure to be used for access or public purposes and which are provided as part of the adjoining land development.
Potential hazards and risks
New school sites should be located away from potential hazards, including but not limited to transmission lines and high-pressure gas pipelines, exposure to excessive noise, transport pollutants or risk of exposure to toxic chemicals due to industrial fires.
When selecting a location for a new school, consideration should also be given to occupational health and safety factors in general, including factors that could impact on emergency management, accessibility and the evacuation of the site.
Consideration needs to be given to whether utility services are available to the new school site to ensure the site will be suitable for the department’s proposed use.
Required utility services are:
- drinking water
- recycled water (where mandated by the water business)
- stormwater drainage
- telecommunications services.
Features impacting cost of construction (various)
Sites that have the following features should be avoided where possible:
- sites with significant trees
- heritage features
- extreme topographical features involving extensive on-site earthworks
- flooding overlays
- other features that would increase the cost of building on the site.
School Site Selection Criteria – requirements for different geographic settings
Schools can operate successfully in many types of geographic settings.
Whilst the department seeks to achieve the same general principles when selecting proposed government school sites in all geographic settings, the department recognises that different settings/areas present different opportunities and challenges.
Place-specific variations may be considered where it can be demonstrated that the variation will not lead to a negative outcome and the proposed site will still meet the needs of the future community, that the variation will make a positive contribution to the overall place-based vision.
For example, in areas where land is scarce or expensive, a case-by-case assessment will always be required, with consideration given to environmental factors, availability, cost, need, alternative sites available, funding and feasibility of property acquisition.
The department considers variations to the general principles and applies a different set of requirements for different geographic settings to accommodate the idiosyncrasies associated with the area under consideration.
The department categorises these sets of requirements based on the following 3 geographic settings:
- Greenfield areas refer to Melbourne’s growth municipalities areas of Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Wyndham, Whittlesea and growth areas of Mitchell, and greenfield development in Victoria’s regional areas.
- Established areas refer to the areas in Melbourne and regional centres that have been urbanised for at least several decades or have been fully developed.
- High Density areas refer to areas with significantly higher density residential development compared to other parts of Melbourne and Victoria.
Victorian Government School Site Selection Criteria Toolbox
For detailed notes on implementing and applying the general principles and requirements included in this Guidance at a Greenfield, Established or High Density area level, refer to:
While the Toolbox is primarily intended for use by internal departmental teams, it can also act as a reference for urban planners and designers, developers, other government agencies and local councils. Schools may also use it for understanding the department’s site selection and school planning processes.
The Toolbox is reviewed regularly, with annual reviews informed by the experiences, observations and learnings of departmental staff involved in school planning and proposed school site selection processes and periodic consultation with external stakeholders.
Victorian Government School Site Selection Criteria Toolbox (the Toolbox)
A detailed resource on implementing and applying the general principles and requirements described in the Victorian Government School Site Selection Criteria Guidance at a Greenfield, Established or High Density area level.
The Toolbox is primarily intended for use by internal Departmental teams, but can also be used as a reference for urban planners and designers, developers, other government agencies and local councils. Schools may use it for understanding the Department’s site selection and school planning processes.
Department programs and targets relevant to land acquisition and selecting school sites
Planning guidelines, schemes and provisions
Reviewed 24 March 2020