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    1. Basic principles of the Act and basic tasks of different plans

Basic principles

The present division of responsibilities between the three levels of government is based on the concept that central government sector policies be co-ordinated at county and municipal levels by the county and municipal authorities. Comprehensive planning, as provided for in the Planning and Building Act, is a key instrument for such co-ordination.

The planning system provided for is a common system of planning for national authorities, county councils and municipalities, with rules for co-ordinated action and dialogue between the different levels of government.

The system is founded on the practical and political skills of local and regional government, and characterised by the key role played by these actors. The Government and the Parliament define national objectives, whilst the municipal and county authorities develop overall solutions on the basis of local issues and potentials. In this way, national policies are gaining added value, at the same time improving the accuracy of central government instruments.

Another major characteristic of the system is its comprehensive approach: planning provides a common framework for co-ordinating physical, economic, social and cultural development in all parts of the country.

National planning guidelines

The Parliament and central government set up the major national objectives prior to the regular planning processes at municipal and county level (once every 4 years).

The Ministry of Environment issues comprehensive guidelines in co-operation with other ministries, reflecting the anticipations of all ministries to which national objectives municipalities and County Councils should pay attention in their planning processes. The Government may also issue policy guidelines for specific aspects of the planning activity (e.g. for co-ordinated land use and transport planning).

Certain priorities are included in the PBA itself, e.g. prohibition of development closer than 100 m to the sea, unless specified in a land use plan.

County Plan

The County Plan is a regional policy document and action program common for all relevant public and private actors in the county, aiming at co-ordinating their physical, economic, social and cultural goals and activities.

The plan consists of long-term objectives and guidelines for regional development in the county and a four-year program for co-ordinated actions by the county council, municipalities, state agencies concerned and private sector.

The plan includes guidelines for the use of land and natural resources across municipal borders, and for development issues that are likely to have significant impacts beyond a single municipality.

Supplementary plans may be prepared for specific parts of the county territory or fields of activity.

Municipal Comprehensive Plan

The Municipal Comprehensive Plan is a plan for local community development and services within the municipality, aiming at co-ordinating physical, economic, social, aesthetic and cultural goals and activities.

The plan consists of long-term objectives and sector planning guidelines, land use regulations to enable management of land and other natural resources, and an integrated action program for the next four years.

Supplementary plans may be prepared for specific parts of the municipal territory or fields of activity.

Local Development Plan

The Local Development Plan is a detailed plan, which regulates the use and protection of land, watercourses, sea areas, buildings and the outdoor environment in specific areas of the municipality.

Building Development Plan

The Building Development Plan is the most detailed plan. The plan establishes land use and regulations for design of buildings and installations within specific development sites.

This legal instrument must not be confused with the common type of drawing produced for a single project, also called a site plan. Site plans are not adopted by the municipality as formal documents and have no legal implications.

    2. Planning obligation, client/producer of plans

The planning initiative lies with the authority responsible also for planning.

The Ministry of Environment may decide upon inter-county or inter-municipal planning, e.g. establishment of the required co-operative bodies, the tasks the co-operation should include and the geographical area it should cover.

In order to implement important national or county council measures of development, construction or conservation, the Ministry of Environment may request the municipality concerned to prepare and adopt a local development plan or land use part of the municipal comprehensive plan. Alternatively, the Ministry may produce the plan itself.

National planning guidelines

The Planning and Building Act does not oblige national policies or guidelines. The central government is, however, rendered the opportunity whenever appropriate. The various ministries produce national policies and guidelines within their respective fields of responsibility.

County plan

County plans are obligatory, and to be renewed during each electoral period (4 years).
The County Council is responsible for the county plan.

Comprehensive plan

Municipal comprehensive plans are obligatory, and to be renewed during each electoral period (4 years). Erection or alterations to buildings and constructions, demolition work, partition of real estate and major landscape entrenchment require permits in compliance with land use plans. The municipality is responsible for the municipal comprehensive plan.

Detailed plan

Local development plans and/or building development plans are obligatory wherever specified in the municipal comprehensive plan as a basis for development. The municipality is responsible for local development plans and local building plans. When the implementation of County Council or state agency actions require a local development plan, the municipality may leave the preparation of the planning proposal, including public announcements, to the body concerned. Property owners, developers or other parties taking an interest may prepare a proposal for local development plan and present it to the municipality. In such a case the private party bears the cost, including the required preliminary public announcements. The municipality may decide to reject the proposal or to go on with the regular procedure. The municipality may charge a handling fee covering their work behind such a decision.

    3. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Strategic Impact Assessment (SIA) in the planning process

EIA requirements are contained in the PBA, chapter VII-a (Konsekvensutredninger)

At present EIA and planning are two co-ordinated processes. The EIA addresses private or public projects that may have significant impacts on the environment, natural resources and the community. EIA is intended to ensure that such effects are taken into account in subsequent planning of the project. Then it is decided whether or not a project may be implemented, and under what conditions.

The Ministry of Environment is to be notified about construction, including major alterations, of large buildings and installations. Notification is also required for extensions to projects when this implies significant changes of land use.

EIA must be carried out for those projects that may have significant impacts. Developers

must bear the cost of producing the EIA, their distribution and related meetings.

    4. Main rules of co-operation and public participation

Individuals and groups that are concerned or take an interest must be given the opportunity to participate actively during the planning process. The planning authority may do this by meetings with the parties involved, by direct consultations of by actively involving individuals or groups in providing input to the planning process.

At the same time the planning authority must co-operate with other authorities and organisations concerned. The PBA does not specify which organisationsare to be involved. Several organisations are usually consulted, according to the type of plan and their presence in the community.

When a draft municipal comprehensive plan or local development plan has been prepared, the plan must be announced in the local press and made available for public inspection and comments.

As for local development plans the planning authority is also obliged to announce the planning at the very start of the process, inviting the public to comment on the issues to be considered.

The PBA itself does not limit involvement and participation in any way.

The Municipal Council (County Council with respect to county plans) may overrule objections by private persons, individuals or groups. Objections by other public bodies must be resolved at a higher level of government.

    5. Approval/concordance of plans

National policies and guidelines are prepared in co-operation or consultation with other ministries.

County plans are prepared in co-operation with the municipalities, County Governor and other state agencies within the county and private sector actors. All public bodies concerned are obliged to participate in this process.

In municipal planning all public bodies with specific tasks concerning use of resources, protection and conservation, physical development, or social and cultural development within the municipality are obliged to assist the municipality as required.

The legal hearing and inspection of county and municipal plans should take place as a last formal check out after co-operation and participation. The plans must be submitted to neighbouring municipalities and counties, County Council, state agencies concerned and relevant organisations.

Planning disputes between the County Council and municipalities or state agencies in the county are resolved and settled by the County Government.

In the municipal comprehensive plan (land use part) disputes between the municipality and the County Council or a state agency in the county may be resolved through mediation by the County Governor. If mediation fails and the disputing parties stick to their positions, the plan is submitted to the Ministry of Environment for final decision. The decision of the Ministry may not be appealed. This procedure applies also to local development plans and local building plans.

    6. Supervision of plans/ prerequisite for enforcement

In general, the Ministry of Environment is responsible for supervising that county and municipal planning is carried out continuously. Otherwise supervision is required when a plan is legally binding for the citizens.

The approving authority is responsible for supervising each particular plan.

The Ministry of Environment supervises county plans in co-operation with other ministries concerned.

The municipalities themselves supervise municipal plans. When the Municipal Council has adopted a municipal comprehensive plan or part of it, the municipality must also inform the Ministry of Environment, County Council, County Governor and other state agencies concerned.

The PBA does not contain regulations for assignment of supervision..

Grounded on national interests the King’s Council (Cabinet) can make changes to county plans prior to their approval.

Grounded on national interests the Ministry of Environment can make changes to municipal plans within 3 months from the time the plan is received, even if there are no objections to the plan.

    7. Enforcement and validity of plans


The Parliament and Government decide on the national policies.

County plans are adopted by the County Council and approved by the King’s Council (Cabinet).

The Municipal Council itself may finally approve the municipal comprehensive plan provided neighbouring municipalities, the County Council or relevant state agencies in the county have no objections to the land use part of it. This applies also to local development plans and local building plans. In case of objections, see pt 5.3.

The PBA does not contain regulations concerning appeal on county plans.

The approval of the municipal comprehensive plan by the Municipal Council (exceptionally the Ministry of Environment) may not be appealed. The approval of local development plans and local building plans may be appealed to the Ministry of Environment.

Plans that are not approved by the competent authority have no political or legal status.

Alterations of enforced plans

The responsible planning authority may initiate alterations, including the Ministry of Environment.

Property owners, developers or other parties may propose alterations to local development plans and local building plans (see pt 2.5).

The planning authority concerned gives consent to alterations.

The municipality may on certain grounds grant property owners, developers or other parties’ exemption from land use zoning and regulations.

Validity of plans

The PBA does not confine the validity period. A plan is valid until it is invalidated or replaced by a new plan.

County plans and Municipal comprehensive plans are to be renewed during each electoral period (4 years). Local development plans it must be feasible to implement within a reasonable time.

The approving authority may also repeal a plan, along the same procedure. It is however more common to have an outdated plan replaced by a new one.

    8. Legal impact of different plans

National policies and guidelines have no legal impact. The County Councils, municipalities, County Governor and other state agencies are, however, obliged to address relevant issues in their county and municipal planning.

County plans have no legal impact. The approved county plan, however, gives direction to all sector planning and municipal planning within the county. For instance, if a state agency wishes to deviate from the county plan, the agency concerned is obliged to consult the County Council planning authority. In case of a disagreement between the County Council and the state agency, the County Council may appeal to the Government.

The land use part of the municipal comprehensive plan is legally binding for all parties (the municipality, landowners and developers). Within the framework of the plan, private or public developers may develop land allocated for building purposes and for commercial development. Violation of the land use zoning and regulations is a breach of law and may lead to legal persecution.

Such impacts apply also to local development plans and local building plans.

    9. Compensation for damage caused by planning restrictions

There is no compensation granted for possible damage implied by national policies or county plans. This issue is confined to land use zoning and regulations in municipal comprehensive plans, local development plans and local building plans.

The owner (or leaseholder) must claim compensation within 3 years from the time approval was announced. In case there are buildings on the ground, compensation must be claimed within 3 years after their removal.

Compensation may be granted for undeveloped property, or large part of such property, which is withheld for public purposes (such as transport, outdoor recreation, urban renewal, public buildings and cemeteries). Compensation may also be granted for property on which there are clauses implying that it can no longer be used in a profitable manner.

In case the municipality and property owner disagree, compensation is usually granted by a judicial assessment.

    10. Obligation to review enforced plans

Comprehensive planning processes at central, county and municipal levels are continuous. By reviewing the plans regularly they are currently adapted to present knowledge and future needs.

The ministries concerned review the national policies and planning situation regularly once every four years.

The long term policies and guidelines in county plans and municipal comprehensive plans are renewed during each electoral period (i.e. at least once every four years). The action programs are updated annually.

Ministries report to the Parliament.

The County Councils review the county plan every second year and report major Changes and additions affecting national or municipal interests to the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry decides whether the County Council should reprocess the plan or part of it.

The municipal planning is reviewed and reported to the Municipal Council.

    11. Everybody’s building right in rural areas

There is no basic building right. Building must comply with land use decisions and

requirements to access, water supply and sewage treatment.

Development work generally requires a building permit. Building permits may however, not be granted for development which is in conflict with an approved plan, or requirements for supplementary planning before a building permit be granted.

Several types of plans provide for development rights, depending on the scale and nature of the development. The main categories are a) the Municipal Comprehensive Plan (land use part), b) the Local Development Plan and c) the Building Development Plan.


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