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  •    national and regional plans and strategies of spatial development
  •    spatial planning legislation / planning documents ie enforced/approved plans


    1. Statistical data

Area north-south distance east-west distance forest of the total territory mountains, swamps and bogs arable land
324 000 km2 1 750 km 430 km 20 % 75 % 3 %

Population density urban population rural
4 350 000 13 people/km2 75 % 25%

    2. Administrative organisation

General role-division between state/ county/ local levels

Norway is a unitary kingdom. The system of government has some significant features:

  • There are popular elections to three levels of government: municipal councils, county councils and the national assembly.
  • Central government activities are organised in vertical sectors. Many sectors are through-going from parliament committees to state agencies at county and municipal levels.

Hence the counties have the regional political authority, but are also the main seat of the regional state administration. County councils are responsible for regional development issues, secondary education, hospitals and public transport within the county.

All municipalities are equally responsible for local development issues, public services within primary education, primary health care, social services, land use decisions, municipal engineering and building permits.

Role division in planning administration


At central government level the responsibility for spatial planning lies with the Ministry of Environment. Through policy guidelines and by monitoring planning at county and municipal levels the Ministry makes sure that county and municipal councils fulfil their obligations according to the current planning legislation.

Other ministries with key roles related to spatial/ regional development include the Ministry of Local and Regional Government, the Ministry of Oil and Energy, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Fisheries and the Ministry of Transport.

Planning is also undertaken by the central government bodies themselves; e.g. sector plans for transport, national parks and conservation areas, the use of oil, hydroelectric power and other natural resources, etc.


There are 19 counties, including Oslo (which is also a municipality). By area the largest county is Finnmark (76 400km2), the smallest Vestfold (2 200 km2). Their population ranges from 76 500 inhabitants in Finnmark to 480 000 in Oslo and 430 000 in Akershus.

Government at the county level comprises:

  • a politically elected County Council with its own administration
  • a central government County Governor
  • a number of other state agencies.

The County council is heading comprehensive County planning, aiming at co-ordinating major goals and activities within the county. The County Governor co-ordinates participation by state agencies in the county planning and its implementation.

Several state agencies work with state sector plans within the county, under the instruction of their respective ministries.

The County Council is obliged to co-operate with other counties within specific health regions in preparing plans for regional health care and hospital structure.


There are 435 municipalities. Municipalities are divided by territory only, comprising both the urban and the rural areas within their boundaries. Their population ranges from 200 inhabitants in Utsira to 480 000 in Oslo (which is also a county). The largest cities are Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger, Tromsų and Kristiansand.

The municipalities co-ordinate their activities by a Municipal comprehensive plan.

    3. Brief overview of planning legislation

The present system of spatial planning has developed gradually. The Building Act of 1924 (decided by the Parliament) applied merely to urban areas, and was regulating building activities only. The 1924 Act was replaced in 1965 by a new Building Act applying to the whole country, and aiming at integrating physical and socio-economic planning. This emphasis on integrated comprehensive planning has been developed further ever since. County planning was introduced in 1973, replacing the previous requirements for regional spatial plans in the 1965 Act. The county planning requirements were closely linked to a County Council reform in1976, introducing County Councils with direct elections and a more distinct political autonomy. The 1965 Building Act was replaced in 1985 by the present Planning and Building Act (Act No. 77 of 14 June 1985 with later amendments). This is a comprehensive planning law with provisions for spatial planning at all levels of government. The Act applies to the whole country including watercourses, and in the case of coastal areas out to the base line. Planning and building are regulated in the same act. The building part was reviewed recently, putting more emphasis on quality issues during all stages of the building design and construction process. The act is split into the following chapters:

I General regulations
II Planning and building authorities
III Deliberation, openness and information
IV Planning at national level
V County planning
VI Municipal comprehensive planning
VII Local development plan
VII-a Environmental impact assessments
VIII Expropriation
IX Reimbursement of costs for road access, water supply and sewage etc.
X Judicial assessment authorities
XI Partition of real estate
XII The building site
XIII The building
XIV Particular buildings and constructions etc.
XV Existing buildings
XVI Handling of applications, responsibilities and control
XVII Miscellaneous regulations
XVIII Penalties
XIX Illegal building work etc.
XX Transition regulations
XXI Enforcement, repeal and amendment of other laws

There are by-laws attached to Environmental Impact Assessments and to the building part of the Act.

The Planning and Building Act is over-ruling other legislation related to spatial planning.

Other legislation may however, give more specific regulations for the use of land within separate land use categories; e.g. for farmland, national parks etc.

The most important sector laws include:

  • The Nature Conservation Act
  • The Farm Land Act
  • The Cultural Heritage Act
  • The Outdoor Recreation Act
  • The Concession Act
  • The Watercourse Act
  • The Roads Act


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