III. Current situation and main problems in Planning
1. Existence of plans
As already mentioned Sweden has at the national level no overall physical plan that is prepared for the entire territory of the state. However, in 1994 the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning drafted a Swedish national vision, i.e. Sweden 2009. In this outline it has been elaborated how Sweden's more peripheral, sparsely populated and vulnerable local labor markets could be transformed into a network of medium-size, comprehensible towns with their own identity and with good mutual accessibility.
The planning initiative should be seen in the light of the growing internationalization and above all the Swedish entry in the European Union (1995). The membership in the EU led to Sweden getting involved with the work to elaborate a framework and policy options for spatial Development in the EU, i.e. the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP).
Now when the Commission and the Member States have adopted the ESDP, it is necessary for Sweden to find out how the ESDP framework could be integrated in Swedish planning. In order for the ESDP to be practically applicable at the national, regional and local level, it is therefore necessary from the Swedish perspective that the national policy is related to the EU policy in respective sectoral areas. For that reason planning on different levels must in the coming years be directed against carrying out the framework and the policy options that are stated in the ESDP document.
The Swedish comprehensive planning according to the Planning and Building Act started in 1987. During the first half of the 1990-ies most of the municipalities have adopted their first comprehensive plan that covers the entire municipality. Now many Swedish municipalities are revising their comprehensive plans. Almost 170 of the total of 289 municipalities have started this work. Simultaneously, there are 261 ongoing works with deeper studies of limited areas in the municipality. This form of comprehensive planning involves an increased detailed level of the plan. There are, for example, used for closer examination of different towns or town districts in the municipalities or in other complex planning situations.
The comprehensive planning is now changing direction from land use and water planning to development planning, from physical planning to urban and regional planning in the broad sense. It is primarily environmental questions that have an impact in the comprehensive plans. Within the municipalities there is for example an actively ongoing effort to integrate the work on Agenda 21 with the municipal comprehensive planning.
During the 1990-ies the question of cross-sectoral planning has been given topical interest, in part due to the need to integrate the three aspects of environment, social issues and economy, in part due to increased regional cooperation between municipalities in Sweden. In many municipalities growing cooperation appears in comprehensive planning that is traditionally built up around issues of regional importance such as infrastructure.
2. Main problems in implementation of planning legislation and in planning
There is a growing problem with housing shortage and house building in the growth regions of Sweden. The trouble is especially salient in the greater Stockholm region. Another difficulty which exists within expansive regions is the deficiencies concerning application of the planning legislation. It could be that exploiting interests get a too strong impact on the process of planning and by that weaken the citizens’ influence in the planning process.
There is also a current problem of lacking coordination between municipalities regarding inter municipal issues, in particular concerning establishment of external retail. The pressure to external retail establishment has been the strongest in Skåne, the northern part of Bohuslän and in the region of Stockholm.
Also worth mentioning are the results that are consequences of the cuts that have been made in the municipal budgets during a succession of years. The effects of severe economic management have been serious, especially in smaller municipalities. Many of them have lost their planning competency to such an extent that it is difficult for them to uphold more than basic planning. This is something that in the future can be aggravated by the prevailing distorted age- and gender structure that has a bias towards older people. It is therefore necessary that rejuvenation take place in the planning corporation to avoid loss of competence.
3. Changes envisaged in planning legislation
The Swedish Government has decided that Sweden should be a driving force and a model of ecological sustainable development. The Government Bill 1997/98:145, Swedish Environmental quality objectives, states how environmental policy should be conducted in various areas to achieve the general objective to hand over to the next generation a society where the main environmental problems have been solved. As an essential part of that policy the Government has presented a new Environmental Act with a number of national environmental quality goals included. These environmental goals show the environmental status that the Government and Parliament have decided must be achieved within one generation.
For the moment it is under consideration whether it is necessary to amend the Planning and Building Act with the environmental quality goals. Another important issue deals with the question if it is necessary to revise Sections three and four in the Environmental Act, i.e. the part of the Act that contains among other general regulation on how public interests are to be considered when government authorities and municipalities deal with cases where there are conflicting interests concerning land and water use.
The Swedish contribution was prepared by Kajetonas Ceginskas
National Board of Housing, Building and Planning
Tel. +46 455 353 124
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