1. Existence of plans

National plan

Preparation of the national planning document began in autumn 1995. In the course of work different development scenarios of economic, social, environmental and territorial development for Estonia were analysed for the coming 10-15 years. Scenario analysis was done in group-work where 14 well-known Estonian scientists, politicians and public figures took part. Scenarios were elaborated in recognition of possible opportunities and risks associated with developments in the upcoming years. None of the four thoroughly prepared scenarios has been used directly as a basis for the final planning document, the conclusions that had been derived from the scenarios were however taken into consideration. During the year 1999 the national planning document ESTONIA 2010 had been prepared that got preliminary approval by the Estonian Government on December 14, 1999. Today (March 2000) the Ministry of Environment together with other ministries have the task to draw up an action plan for ESTONIA 2010 by midsummer of 2000. ESTONIA 2010 will then be finally approved by the Government together with the action plan.

According to the Act, the literal translation of the legal name of this planning document into English is National plan but it is not a plan in the classical meaning. It is a policy document describing general principles, needs and guidelines of spatial development of Estonia. It contains no maps, only some illustrative schemes for spatial development.

County plans

In the Planning and Building Act a deadline was set for completion (the first round) of county plans. Of the 15 counties in Estonia 12 have enforced up-to-date county plans drawn up in accordance with the new PBA by the end of March 2000. County plans were prepared as contemporary strategic spatial plans - together with county plans development strategies were elaborated in the majority of counties. The scale of maps in county plans is 1 : 100 000–150 000. County plans were produced in close co-operation with the municipalities of respective counties, this way county plans had an important role in the promotion of municipal comprehensive planning and economical development, especially in small towns and rural municipalities. All county plans were prepared by the staff of county governments. In 1999 a new task for county planning was given by the Government – elaboration of a theme plan entitled “Environmental Preconditions Guiding Settlement and Land Use”. Preconditions would be set by addressing two aspects – the green network and valuable landscapes. The deadline for completion of this theme plan is the end of 2001.

Comprehensive plans

Preparation of the first present-day comprehensive plans for Estonian towns and rural municipalities began a few years before the PBA was passed by the Parliament. This planning work really meant pilot projects initiated by the Ministry of Environment in collaboration with Swedish or Finnish colleagues in order to get a more convincing basis for preparation of our own legal regulations in planning and to introduce methods of contemporary democratic planning. As of January 1, 2000, 19 towns and 55 rural municipalities have enforced comprehensive plans, in 13 towns and 54 rural municipalities preparation of comprehensive plans is initiated by the municipality and work is in progress. So, 141 municipalities of the 247 have initiated or enforced comprehensive plans (towns 32/42; rural municipalities 109/205). In bigger towns comprehensive plans are prepared by town governments, plans for smaller towns and rural municipalities are usually prepared by planning consultants.

    2. Main problems in implementation of planning legislation and in planning practice

When preparing the new Act, there was very little that could have been transferred from the Estonian Building Law of 1938 due to substantial changes in planning in the meanwhile and not very much was useful from the soviet time practice and regulations either. Legislation and planning practices, especially of the Nordic countries and from elsewhere, were thoroughly studied in the drafting process of the law. The biggest problems in the implementation of the Act have been the following:

  • how to attract people to participate in the planning process;
  • lack of experts in small towns and rural municipalities;
  • insufficient law obedience of people and local governments, particularly in big towns;
  • lack of experienced planning consultants/firms.

Relatively many problems are arising from the provision of the PBA, giving the right to finance and prepare detailed plans to interested parties. By using this provision municipalities are giving away part of their planning monopoly and investors sometimes get too strong a position in the planning process. It is sometimes dangerous for harmonious development of towns in our preconditions where democratic traditions are weak and public control by public participation is not functioning sufficiently. On the other hand, such a provision is inevitable in the situation where municipalities do not have enough finances and human capacity for elaboration of detailed plans. The only solution here is promotion of more professionally functioning municipalities. In order to reach this goal, the Ministry is organising courses for local people and planners together with different training institutions.

    3. Changes envisaged in planning legislation

Within the five years that have passed since the enforcement of the PBA, the Act has proved itself as basically functioning. There are no changes of principle needed, only more specific wording and complementing of certain provisions and better co-ordination of the PBA with several other laws. The first complete adjustment of the PBA is going on now and must handed over to the Parliament before the end of June 2000. The proposed amendments to the PBA suggest a deadline for the completion of comprehensive plans. The deadline has not been finally agreed, preliminary proposals are 3-4 years for towns and 4-6 years for rural municipalities after the revisions have been passed by Parliament.


The Estonian contribution was prepared by Jüri Lass
Estonian Ministry of Environment
Department of Strategy and Planning
Tel. +372 6604 534


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