1. Statistical data

Area north-south distance east-west distance forest of the total territory arable land swamps and bogs
45 200 km2 240 km 350 km 48 % 24% 23 %

Population density urban population rural
1 420 000 32 people/km2 69% 31%

    2. Administrative organisation for planning

General administrative organisation of the country

The Constitution establishes the principles of the rule of law. It recognises the principle of separate and balanced powers, the independence of the courts, and guarantees of fundamental human rights and liberties according to universally recognised principles and norms. Estonia is a democratic parliamentary republic wherein the supreme power is vested in the people. The people exercise the supreme power, through electing the Riigikogu – State Assembly (Parliament) and by participating in referendums. The Riigikogu is comprised of one hundred and one members. Executive power rests with the Government. The head of State is the President of the Republic.

Role-division in planning administration


In the planning field responsibility on the national level lies with the Ministry of Environment, whose task is overall regulation, co-ordination and supervision of planning and building as well as preparation of national planning guidelines.


There are 15 counties in Estonia, the biggest is the county of the capital region with approximately 500 000 inhabitants and smallest the island county of Hiiumaa with a population of 12 000. The population of other counties remains between 35 000 and 150 000. By territory the counties range from 1 000 km2 to 4 800 km2.

County government is a state institution, there is no second level self-government in Estonia. To a certain extent development and planning activities on the county level are influenced by county associations of local governments. County government is responsible for preparation of county plans, supervision of the planning activities of local governments, and should participate together with other authorities in the preparation of national planning guidelines.



There are 247 local governments in Estonia, 42 towns and 205 rural municipalities. A town-municipality covers only areas of urban settlement, towns and rural municipalities have the same rights and responsibilities. The biggest town is Tallinn with a population of 428 000, Tartu is next with 103 000, then Narva with 76 000 and Pärnu with 51 000 inhabitants. The population of other towns and major county centres is usually 10 000 - 20 000. Local centres (small towns and settlements) have 2000 - 5000 inhabitants. The average size of rural municipalities is 1500 - 2500 inhabitants, the biggest rural municipality has a population of 5400 and the smallest, an isolated island - 62.

The municipalities are preparing comprehensive and detailed plans, securing their implementation and participating in county plan production.

    2. Brief overview of planning legislation

The first Building Act in Estonia came into force in 1939. It could function less than two years as Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940.

During the Soviet period there was no law regulating planning, only norms and rules which did not have the power of law. Planning was centralised, local institutions were not authorised for this activity and all the plans were produced in a couple of state-owned institutes in Tallinn. Local governments in the western sense did not exist. Plans were for official administrative use or classified.

Preparations for a contemporary planning and building act began already before Estonia regained independence in 1991, the Planning and Building Act (PBA) came into force on July 22, 1995. At present the first supplement to the Act is being developed. The original principles will not change but several regulations will be reinforced and specified on the basis of the experience so far with implementation of the Act. There are no additional planning regulations/by-laws to PBA. The parts concerning building design and construction in PBA have however a large number of additional regulations/by-laws.

Structure of the Planning and Building Act by parts and chapters:

     I. General Part
1. General Provisions

     II. Spatial Planning
2. Categories of Plans
3. Plan Preparation and Public Participation
4. Supervision over Preparation, Adoption and Repeal of Plans
5. Compensation for Damage and Expropriation

     III. Building Design
6. Building Design

     IV. Construction
7. Definitions and General Provisions
8. Construction Supervision
9. Duties of Owner of Structure and Trader Engaged in Construction

     V. Final Provisions
10.Liability for Violation of Act
11.Implementation of Act

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