Plan Harcourt


Plan Harcourt is a Council document that integrates two separate, but interrelated projects exploring spatial land use planning, town centre design and activation, and local economic development initiatives. The two projects are:

  1. The Harcourt Framework Plan(PDF, 1011KB)
  2. Shine Harcourt Leanganook

A Harcourt Strategic Infrastructure Plan is also being prepared. Further information about the Harcourt Strategic Infrastructure Plan will be made available in late 2024. 

Why is Plan Harcourt needed?

Harcourt has been identified as a small town that can accommodate planned growth in the region. This is recognised in the Loddon Mallee South Regional Growth Plan 2014 and in the Mount Alexander Planning Scheme.

Future growth and change in the township needs to be carefully planned to promote and preserve local place values, and recognise the highly productive agricultural operations around the town. Furthermore, plans for growth in Harcourt should ensure that provisions are made for appropriate infrastructure, and that the existing natural and cultural features of the area are maintained for the benefit of future residents.

What is the Harcourt Framework Plan?

The Harcourt Framework Plan is a strategic planning document that forms the basis of future changes to the Mount Alexander Planning Scheme.

The Plan includes policy directions and a graphical map that designates future growth and change in the township, including the rezoning of land and the application of overlays.

The planning scheme currently includes policy and a framework (graphical) plan for Harcourt. It is proposed to update the policy and the framework (graphical) plan with the new policy and plan prepared by this process.


Panels in a timeline


Plan Harcourt was adopted by Council at the Ordinary Meeting of Council on 21 July 2020. The Strategic Planning team has submitted documentation to the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action seeking authorisation from the Minister for Planning to commence a Planning Scheme Amendment (known as C94malx).

On 11 November, the Minister for Planning and DEECA  authorised Council to proceed with the amendment subject to conditions. This amendment will seek to introduce new policies, zones, and overlay controls, along with the framework (graphical) plan demonstrating residential and commercial areas, into the planning scheme. A formal public exhibition process will occur after the amendment has been authorised.

The amendment was on exhibition for a period of eight weeks from 11 January 2022 until 6 March 2022, during which time submissions were received from the public. Council considered all submissions at its Meeting on 21 June 2022. As not all matters raised within submissions were resolved, Council referred these to an independent planning panel to review and consider the outstanding issues. Over the course of three days in September 2022, the panel hearing was held and a number of submitters and Council presented their submissions to the panel.

The planning panel considered the submissions, and has provided its recommendations to Council about the amendment.

Since the report was released, Council officers have received support from the Department of Transport and Planning’s Regional Planning Hub to undertake further work recommendations of the planning panel. This includes a commercial land demand assessment and a two-stage biodiversity assessment. 

Council officers have also been working through updating Amendment C94 documentation to address the panel’s recommendations as this further work is completed.

As this further work remains ongoing, further progress updates will be provided over the coming months.

Find out more information about the planning scheme amendment process.

Planning Panel's Recommendations & Next Steps

Council received the planning panel's report on 31 November 2022.

Based on the reasons set out in the panel's report, the panel recommends that Mount Alexander Planning Scheme Amendment C94malx be abandoned until further work can be completed. The panel also makes the following further recommendations. That Council should:

  • Prepare a strategic level biodiversity assessment and revise the amendment to ensure proposed planning provisions adequately consider biodiversity protection.
  • Prepare a commercial land demand assessment to inform the area proposed for rezoning to Commercial 1 Zone in the town centre.
  • Update Plan Harcourt to ensure it is consistent with the further work and updated amendment.

Since the report was released, Council officers have received support from the Department of Transport and Planning’s Regional Planning Hub to undertake the commercial land demand assessment and the first stage of a two-stage biodiversity assessment. Council officers have also been working through updating Amendment C94 documentation, where possible, to address the panel’s recommendations as this further work is completed.

Findings of Stage 1 Strategic Biodiversity Assessment

The assessment has been completed and can be viewed by downloading the Stage 1 of a 2 Stage Strategic Biodiversity Assessment(PDF, 4MB).

The stage 1 assessment concludes that while amendment C94 attempts to protect higher value biodiversity in certain ways, such as rezoning areas for development with limited biodiversity values, Stage 2 should proceed with further work to confirm higher biodiversity areas where possible (e.g. access dependent). The assessment notes that stage 2's fieldwork should be targeted towards enabling assessment of whether amendment C94 directs development away from higher value areas and if the proposed planning controls will be effective in managing the identified biodiversity values. Targeting Stage 2 fieldwork in this way is important given that the potential threat level to biodiversity values is contingent upon the planning controls proposed by the amendment. This approach should also enable reviewing current planning controls and identifying suitable planning to protect and manage identified values.

These findings reinforce the panel’s key recommendation that the amendment be abandoned until further work is completed including a strategic level biodiversity assessment.

As a result, Council officers engaged Ranges Environmental Consulting to conduct Stage 2 of the Strategic Biodiversity Assessment based on the findings of Stage 1.

Findings of Stage 2 Strategic Biodiversity Assessment

The assessment has been completed in draft form and can be viewed by downloading the Stage 2 Strategic Biodiversity Assessment(PDF, 34MB)

A number of high-value biodiversity assets were identified during Stage 1 and confirmed during Stage 2. The recommended planning controls proposed in Stage 2 are appropriate to the asset requiring protection as per the Planning for Biodiversity guidance (DELWP 2017) and PPN07: Vegetation Protection in Urban Areas (DNRE 1999).

To direct development away from and provide suitable protection for high-value biodiversity in the study area, the following planning controls are recommended:

  • Addition of Environmental Significance Overlays in areas of Harcourt.
  • Addition of Vegetation Protection Overlays in areas of Harcourt.
  • Addition of a Rural Conservation Zone in areas of Harcourt.
  • Changes to the proposed Township Boundary outlined in Plan Harcourt.

These controls will contribute to the goals and objectives set out in the Planning Policy Framework, ‘To protect and enhance Victoria’s biodiversity’, and in the Victorian Governments, Biodiversity 2037 that ‘Victoria’s natural environment is healthy’.

For more information visit the Mount Alexander Shire Council SHAPE page

Findings of the Commercial Land Demand Assessment 

Council officers completed the commercial land demand assessment that was recommended by the panel. The assessment can be viewed here.(PDF, 2MB) The assessment found that while Council’s Plan Harcourt amendment originally proposed 2.9 hectares of commercially zoned land, of which 1.2 hectares is already being used for commercial activities, Harcourt does not require this much commercial land. Instead of 2.9 hectares only 2.0 hectares is required. This includes the 1.2 hectares already being used for commercial activities.

In light of the commercial land demand assessment’s findings, Council will update its Plan Harcourt amendment documentation according to the findings. This will see the amount of land proposed to be rezoned to Commercial 1 Zone reduced.

What consultation has occurred up until now?

A discussion paper prepared by the Strategic Planning Unit was released for public comment in November 2018. Following this, Council undertook a range of community activities to inform and engage the Harcourt community in discussions about spatial planning, residential and commercial growth and town centre activation. This included two launch events at Harcourt Bowls Club and Goldfields Track Café, drop-in sessions in Harcourt, surveys, an online interactive map that allowed users to share their ideas, a workshop with Grade 5/6 students at Harcourt Valley Primary School, and meetings and conversations with community groups, government agencies and referral authorities.

A ‘What We Heard paper’ was released in April 2019, summarising feedback from the community and stakeholders.

The Shine Harcourt Leanganook consultation process has also informed the preparation of the draft Plan Harcourt, including the Shine Harcourt Ideas-a-thon and the Ideas Lab.

The draft Plan Harcourt was released for public consultation in November 2019. Two community drop-in sessions were held in Harcourt in November and December 2019, and the project team was also available to talk about the plan at the Harcourt Twilight Market in November 2019.

A public exhibition period was also held over January - March 2022 to provide the community opportunity to review the proposed amendment documentation and make submissions for or against the amendment. Several community drop-in sessions were held, along with meetings with interested stakeholders.

While completing further work as recommended the panel between February - April 2023, Council consulted with several community groups and affected landowners to seek feedback and input on these further work items.

The consultation period for Stage 2 of the Strategic Biodiversity Assessment and new draft planning controls commenced on Friday 10 May 2024 and ends on Monday 10 June 2024. During this time, the community can view and make a submission on the proposed changes. For more information and details on how to make a submission, visit the Mount Alexander Shire Council SHAPE page.