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    Topographical map of Denmark

    A vision for Denmark in 2025

    Administrative boundaries in Denmark

    Population density per square kilometre at municipality level


    1. Statistical data

Area north-south distance east-west distance forest of the total territory moorland, sand dunes and bogs meadows, marshland arable land
43.000 km2 356 km 453 km 12% 5% 6% 62%

Population density urban population rural
5.3 million 123 persons/km2 85% 15%

    2. Administrative organisation

General role-division between state/county/local levels

Denmark has been a constitutional monarchy since 1849. The Folketing (Parliament) and the Queen have legislative power, the Queen (actually the Government) has executive power and the Courts of Justice have judicial power. Since 1953, when the most recent revision of the Constitution was passed, the Folketing comprised 179 members.

There are three levels of administration: national, regional and municipal, with public elections to all of these levels. Regarding the regional and municipal level, elections are held every 4th year. Election at the national level has to take place at least every 4th year but if the Government misses its majority at a voting in the Parliament, it can call an election.

Central (national level) administration is organised in ministries and agencies.

Denmark has a highly decentralised system of public administration. Local administration (regional and municipal level) administers more than 50 per cent of the total public expenditure. Each regional and local authority levies taxes and holds the responsibility of utilising the revenues. More and more responsibilities have been transferred from the state level to local governments. The purpose is to solve the tasks at the lowest possible level in order to combine responsibility for decision-making with accountability for financial consequences (the principle of subsidiarity). The activities of the local authorities are financed by income taxes, land taxes and by state block grants.

Role division in planning according to the Act regulating planning

The Planning Act delegates responsibility for spatial planning to the Minister of the Environment and Energy, the 14 county councils and the 275 municipal councils.


The Spatial Planning Department, part of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, is the national administrative authority for spatial planning functions.

Other departments with interest in the field of spatial planning include the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Transport and the Energy Agency (which is a part of the Ministry of Environment and Energy).


The number of counties is 14. This includes the municipalities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg, located in the centre of greater Copenhagen, which also have the status of a county.

Average population: 350.000 inhabitants (ranging from 45.000 to 600.000)

Area: ranging from 500 to 6000 km2 (average 3000 km2)

The county is a regional self-government. The County Councils are elected for a 4-year period by direct elections using the system of proportional representation. The Mayor, who is elected by the Council among its member’s heads the County Council. After each election the Council establishes a financial committee headed by the Mayor, and one or more standing committees within specific areas according to the statutes in the individual county. The counties are free to design the structure of the committees. Normally there are 4 committees – health, social welfare, education and culture, and technical and environmental matters.

The county authorities are responsible for functions of regional character. The main areas are: hospitals, high schools, major roads, public transport, regional planning and rural land use administration.

In most counties the administration is organised in departments which correspond to the structure of the committees, e.g. there is a department for technical and environmental matters dealing with construction and maintenance of major roads, environmental protection, nature protection, regional planning and rural land use administration.

Regional organisation

Amtsrådsforeningen (The Association of County Councils in Denmark) acts as the representative of the counties in external relations has an ongoing dialogue with the Government and the Parliament concerning economic and legislative matters.


Number of municipalities: 275
Average population: 20.000 inhabitants (minimum- 3.000 and maximum - 470.000)

The municipal authorities are responsible for local functions. The main areas are social welfare and health service, primary and secondary schools, libraries and cultural activities, local and private roads, public utilities, waste management and local spatial planning and development including urban renewal and handling of building permits. Population of municipalities is around 20.000 on the average, ranging from half a million in the City of Copenhagen to a few thousand.

Local organisation

Kommunernes Landsforening (The National Association of Local Authorities in Denmark) that all the municipalities (except Copenhagen and Frederiksberg) are voluntary members of represents the interests of local authorities in dealing with the Government, Parliament and central administration.

    3. Brief overview of planning legislation

The Planning Act was adopted in 1924 and has since been revised a number of times. The present Planning Act came into force in 1992, based on the planning reform adopted in 1975 as well as the administrative reform adopted in 1970. Since 1992 several amendments have been adopted and included in the Planning Act: e.g. guidelines for the coastal zone, retail (shopping centres), EIA, Local Agenda 21 and strategic municipal planning.

The Government has the responsibility to present proposals for acts and the Parliament adopts the acts.

The structure of the Planning Act:

  • Purpose
  • National planning
  • Planning in coastal areas
  • Regional planning
  • Local planning
  • Producing and repealing plans
  • Zoning and rural administration
  • Summer cottage areas
  • Easements
  • Zone transfer
  • Expropriation, taking over property, etc.
  • Supervision
  • Administrative provision, etc.
  • Appeals and legal proceedings
  • Legalisation and penalties
  • Provisions governing coming into force and transitional measures


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