1. Statistical data

Area north-south distance east-west distance forest of the total territory swamps and bogs arable land
337 000 km2 1 165 km 550 km 65% 10% 8 %

Population density urban population rural
5 158 000 17 people/km2 81% 19%

    2. Administrative organisation

General administrative system

According to the Finnish Constitution, everyone has the right to a healthy environment. The Central Government consists of the Council of State (the Cabinet and 12 ministries).

There are 13 regional environmental centres that belong to the State administration system. The 19 regional Councils, which are associations of municipalities, prepare regional land use plans. The 452 municipalities prepare, approve and implement their own land use plans. The self-governmental status of the Åland Islands is stated in the Finnish Constitution.

Division of tasks in planning administration


The Parliament with 200 elected members decides upon spatial planning legislation.On the national level, the Land Use Department of the Ministry of the Environment (MoE) is responsible for the legislation and guidelines for an integrated approach to spatial planning and the management of land resources as well as environmental protection. Therefore, the Ministry has an important role in the national co-ordination and guidance of land use planning. In regional development issues the MoE has close cooperation mainly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The regional environmental centres, belonging to the State administration structure, promote and steer the organisation of land use planning and building activity as well as environmental issues in their area. There is a standardized procedure of negotiations about local plans between the municipality and the regional environmental centre.


The six provinces that belong to the state administrative system have no spatial planning powers.

Regional councils (the size and amount of population of which differs dramatically if one compares for instance Lapland and the Helsinki Region) were established in the early 1990's to replace the former regional planning associations and thus strengthen their position as development strategy makers. The regional councils have the right to prepare their own land use plans and allocate resources to implement regional development strategies. Regional land use plans are submitted to the MoE for ratification.


The 452 Finnish municipalities, be they big or small, urban or rural, have the same basic administrative structure, decision-making system and extensive self-government. This includes the right of the local elected council to control, guide and implement land use planning. Differences in the amount of population are huge, ranging from an island municipality with 500 inhabitants to the City of Helsinki with a population well over 500 000.

    3. Brief overview of the planning legislation

Land use planning and building are regulated by the Land Use and Building Act (from hereon the Act). The general trend during the 1990's has been to increase and encourage public participation. In 1990, the former Building Act was amended so that consultation over planning issues between the municipal and mainly land-owners was shifted to broader interaction with all citizens by defining the legal process of public participation. In 1994, regulations came into effect on environmental impact assessment in land use planning.

The recent Act passed the Parliament in 1999 and came into force in the beginning of year 2000. Current priorities for the development of the land use planning system are the implementation of the Act and especially the preparation of national land use planning guidelines. Of importance is also a better integration of land use planning, nature protection, traffic and transport planning as well as urban management.

The structure of the Act is the following:

  • Chapter 1 General provisions
  • Chapter 2 Authorities
  • Chapter 3 National land use guidelines
  • Chapter 4 Regional planning
  • Chapter 5 Local master plan
  • Chapter 6 Joint municipal master plan
  • Chapter 7 Local detailed plan
  • Chapter 8 Planning procedure and interaction
  • Chapter 9 National urban parks
  • Chapter 10 Special provisions concerning shore areas
  • Chapter 11 Plot division
  • Chapter 12 Streets and other public areas
  • Chapter 13 Assigning and expropriating land
  • Chapter 14 Compensation resulting from implementation of the local master plan or local detailed plan
  • Chapter 15 Special development areas
  • Chapter 16 Definitions concerning building activities
  • Chapter 17 General preconditions for building activities
  • Chapter 18 Permits required for building activities and other action
  • Chapter 19 Permit procedure and consideration of a permit
  • Chapter 20 Carrying out construction work
  • Chapter 21 Arrangements concerning construction
  • Chapter 22 Care of the built environment
  • Chapter 23 Deviation
  • Chapter 24 Coercive means and consequences
  • Chapter 25 Appeal and rectification issued by an authority
  • Chapter 26 Miscellaneous provisions

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