Report to the Storting Nr. 29 (1996-1997) Regional planning and land-use policy (Summary)

Regional planning and land-use policy

Recommendations of 21 March 1997 from the Ministry of the Environment, approved by the King in Council on the same day

1 Introduction and summary

1.1 Introduction

The Government hereby submits a report to the Storting (the Norwegian national assembly) concerning the policy for regional planning and land-use policy. The intention of the report is to give an account of experiences of the use of the Planning and Building Act on the basis of ten years' practice, and to propose improvements to the Act and to the way in which it is practised. It is intended that regional planning shall facilitate effective development within the framework of sustainable development. Within this framework, planning is also intended to lay the basis for a society that safeguards important common values and the living conditions of different social groups. The planning system has been designed to coordinate public policy at the local and regional level through efficient assessment procedures that allow broad participation. Emphasis is placed on the role of the Planning and Building Act as an instrument for weighing political considerations between development and conservation, for coordination between sectors and administrative levels and for decision-making by local authorities.

Planning involves giving consideration to possibilities and consequences before acting. Planning is not an alternative to action, but a precondition for rational action. The more complex a society becomes, the more important it is to plan. Planning in accordance with the Planning and Building Act is based on the technical and political expertise of the local and regional authorities. The Government and the Storting define national objectives, while the municipal and county authorities develop overall solutions on the basis of local conditions and potential. In this way, national policy can be supplied with local added value while increasing the accuracy of central government instruments.

In this report, particular emphasis is placed on ensuring improvements in the practising of the Planning and Building Act, and on adaptation to new knowledge and new needs. This will involve focusing on the interaction between the elected bodies at municipal and county level (municipalities and county authorities) and in the regional offices of central government agencies, to ensure a comprehensive and coherent implementation of the planning, enabling the effective achievement of objectives.

Regional planning includes both broad community planning and planning that leads to mandatory decisions about land use in Norway. In the previous Report to the Storting Regional planning and land-use policy (Report No. 31 (1992–93) to the Storting), an overall review of land-use policy in Norway was made for the first time. This policy is fairly firmly established, but the present report outlines a number of political premises to which increasing importance will be attached in future land-use policy. The report discusses important national frameworks for planning of land use in different types of region. The present report is primarily concerned with land-use policy and planning. The Planning and Building Act applies to land areas and to sea areas as far as the baseline. Proposals concerning planning with regard to sea areas are mainly dealt with in chapter 7.4.

In connection with the Storting's deliberations in 1985 concerning the Planning and Building Act (Proposition No. 56 (1984–85) to the Odelsting), the Standing Committee on Local Government and the Environment was unanimous in stressing that a report should be submitted to the Storting during the course of each session, outlining the guidelines set up and giving details of the planning activities carried out pursuant to the Act. The previous report was submitted in Spring 1993.

1.2 Summary

The Government finds that the Planning and Building Act functions mainly according to intentions. The strengths of the legal system will be safeguarded and further developed. The main structure of the Act will not be altered, but an overall review of the legislation is planned with emphasis on the following main points:

  • simplify, rationalize and secure participation in processes arising out of the Planning and Building Act. Establish and consolidate national objectives in a number of priority areas
  • take into account new knowledge in the planning work
  • clarify the need for changes to adapt to future needs
  • Work will be stepped up on the Municipal Master Development Plan as an instrument for the strategic development of the municipalities. Work will be commenced on determining how municipal development is actually carried out by the municipalities, with an emphasis on the correlation between long-term strategies (10–12 years), the four-year action programmes and the economic plan, and the annual budget deliberations. As a stage in the quality assurance work and follow-up of national objectives in municipal development work, work will be started on performance assessment of the planning. Such development work will be carried out in cooperation between the ministries responsible for municipal planning systems and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities.
  • As a stage in the quality assurance work and follow-up of national objectives relating to regional planning, clearer demands will be placed on municipalities as regards the review of municipal plans in relation to national objectives, new knowledge, new regional guidelines issuing from county development plans and not least in relationship to new local needs. The practice regarding dispensations can lead to an undermining of the land area planning that is carried out via municipal planning and result in a need for revision of plans. A closer assessment will be made of this practice, particularly with regard to establishing whether there is a need for a stricter practice.
  • Considerable emphasis will be placed on improvement of the knowledge base for the structuring and operating the planning system. Continuous documentation will be developed as a basis for guidance and training within municipalities, county authorities and government agencies in the land use provisions of the Planning and Building Act. The aim will be to reduce the amount of resources used for processing objections and complaints against plans, so that greater efforts can rather be invested in constructive participation and in resolving conflicts during the planning process.
  • The Government wishes to stress that the county authorities must use county planning in cooperation with the municipalities to actively promote the desired development pattern and a satisfactory regional infrastructure, and that the municipalities must adapt their land-use plans to regional guidelines established through county planning. However, other issues in the county, such as those associated with commercial and industrial development and localization policies, cultural projects and health promotion measures, necessitate regional planning and control across municipal boundaries. County authorities must take a clearer responsibility for this, set up the necessary guidelines for regional development and follow them up actively. It is also important that the county authorities make objectives and strategies in county planning the basis of their participation in the EU's interregional programmes.
  • Cooperation on implementing and following up the county development plan must be strengthened through mandatory linking of instruments employed by a number of government sectors, the county authorities and the municipalities. Use of and ownership of county planning by the municipalities must be strengthened. The Ministry of the Environment has therefore in cooperation with the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities started a development project on the municipalities and county planning. Within their areas of responsibility, ministries and directorates with subordinate agencies at county level must facilitate satisfactory adaptations of national policy through county planning.
  • The Government and the Storting must provide information about national objectives and interests in advance of local planning processes. An important challenge lies in achieving a satisfactory coordination and interaction between national objectives and interests, on the one hand, and the regional and local adaptations of national policies, on the other. The challenge for the central government will lie in providing strict enough guidelines to exert control of the factors that it is found desirable to influence on the basis of long-term global assessments, at the same time as principles and guidelines must be flexible enough to enable effective regional and local adaptations to national policies. This is primarily achieved by means of guidelines and circulars provided by the central government. In addition to the existing central government guidelines, the Government will consider whether it would be appropriate to prepare such guidelines to safeguard considerations of biodiversity and large continuous, intact natural areas.
  • Extensive guidance and training measures are under preparation for all the affected parties in relation to the provisions concerning environmental impact assessments. The county authorities and county governors will be expected to assist the municipalities in this. The Ministry of the Environment will establish a system for continuous assessment of the new provisions, so that any necessary amendments can be included in later revisions. Consideration will be given to further coordination of the provisions concerning environmental impact assessments and the planning provisions in the Planning and Building Act and the Act relating to Municipal Health Services. Priority has been given to work on the development of environmental impact assessments for municipal land-use planning.
  • The Government indicates in this report that considerations concerning the following political premises shall be given higher priority in land-use planning:
  • biodiversity
  • development policy and transport systems
  • conservation of cultivated and cultivable soil
  • aesthetics and the form of the landscape
  • disabled persons
  • In order to rationalize the planning processes, prevent conflicts and assess the effect of current land-use planning, priority will be given to the strengthening of land-use monitoring and documentation, focusing on:
  • enhanced basic survey activity and improved management of land-use data at all levels
  • continuous documentation of land use
  • land-use surveys and value classification of biodiversity
  • In towns and densely populated areas, considerable priority shall be given to the development of environmentally benign development patterns and transport systems, conserving green areas. In urban development, measures must be implemented whereby a greater proportion of transportation is carried out by public transport services. Town centres and densely populated rural areas must be strengthened. There shall be further development of good planning models and planning tools both for urban areas and towns as well as small and medium-sized urban settlements. Emphasis will be placed on developing satisfactory living conditions and dynamic local communities in urban areas and densely populated areas. Housing construction must take place to a greater extent within existing urban areas and cultural environments. Efforts must be made to ensure the quality of housing developments, outdoor environment and urban design and that these factors, in conjunction with local services and activities, form the framework of a satisfactory environment for daily life.
  • The work on the Environmental City Programme, including the environmental project on the old town of Oslo, will be continued towards completion in the year 2000. In further work, emphasis will be placed on better coordination of the use of economic instruments in relationship to the towns, among other ways, by means of an action plan for urban development of the kind that was requested by the Storting in connection with its deliberations on Report No. 14 to the Storting (1994–95) on living conditions in large towns.
  • In addition to towns and urban regions, national frameworks for land-use planning are being discussed in relation to the following types of region:
  • regions with large agricultural interests and cultural landscape
  • large areas of uninterrupted countryside, especially mountainous areas and areas along large river systems
  • regions in the coastal zone

In such areas, the main challenges for regional planning will be the maintenance of settlements and the further development of industry based on natural resources, while at the same time safeguarding major conservation concerns. These challenges are rarely restricted to a single municipality. County planning therefore gains increasing importance for planning and administration in such regions.

  • Owing to the scarcity of highly productive agricultural areas in Norway, it is important that future land-use policy places greater emphasis on safeguarding cultivated and cultivable areas. The Government therefore wishes to stress the need for major soil conservation measures. In practising soil conservation, the quality and production potential of cultivated and cultivable land will be an important factor in resolving land-use conflicts. In such assessments, other relevant considerations must also be taken into account, such as the need for developing functional and dynamic towns and urban settlements. National policy guidelines for coordinated planning of land use and transport include principles for achieving a balance between conservation and utilization interests in the management of land areas.
  • In the cultural landscape, especially that surrounding towns and urban settlements where the pressure for urban development makes itself most felt, increased emphasis will be placed on safeguarding a rich pattern of variation as well as considering the social history and ecology perspectives of the cultural landscape. The potential for open-air recreation and the enjoyment of different types of landscape must be developed, and the cultural heritage associated with the countryside must be secured and properly looked after. This is also important as a basis and support for commercial and industrial development. At the same time, these are often the best land areas in the country for agricultural production, with strong soil conservation interests. Special attention should therefore be given to land-use planning in such regions.
  • The large continuous, intact natural areas must be managed as an important part of our national heritage. At the same time, a farming sector under pressure feels that traditional livelihoods and settlements are sometimes threatened by the interests of nature conservation. Open and democratic planning processes based on local consultation and cooperation are the key to a balance between industrial activities, conservation and compensation measures, enabling the achievement of comprehensive solutions. It is important that government sectors and agencies take an active part in this planning, and focus on national objectives at an early stage of the process.
  • In 1996, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Fisheries and the Ministry of Government Administration began a development project for regional coastal zone planning within the framework of county planning. The project experiments with ways of using county planning to allow the county authorities to play a more active role in coastal zone planning. The purpose of the project is to develop good examples of coordinated regional guidelines and cooperation routines for planning and development in the coastal zone.

1.3 The relationship to the Long-term Programme and other reports

In the Long-term Programme for 1998–2001, the Government sets the course for the development of Norwegian society into the next century. "The House of Norway" has foundations consisting of the collective value added of an ecologically sustainable society. The four walls of the house are:

  • Industrial and employment policy
  • Education, research and culture policy
  • Welfare policy
  • Foreign and security policy

The modern Norwegian welfare state is a result of the efforts and investments made by earlier generations. The intention of the House of Norway is, on the basis of what has already been achieved, to define objectives for future social developments designed to stimulate public involvement and dialogue. The guidelines drawn up in the Long-term Programme are intended to form a platform for further practical work on the shaping of policy in the different areas concerned.

This report on regional planning takes these political guidelines as its point of departure, and demonstrates how the planning system enables us to use regional planning in municipalities and county authorities as a tool to realize elements of the Government's policy. The Long-term Programme stresses the need for economic growth within the framework of sustainable development. This conforms well with the objects clause in the Planning and Building Act, which in practice is designed to promote judgments and decisions that ensure a sustainable use of land areas and natural resources.

In the report of the Ministry of Local Government and Labour on district and regional policy, there is a discussion of how this policy should be drawn up. Particular emphasis is given to the parts of the country that are least developed in relation to industry and employment, and where the need for innovation and reorganization is greatest. There is an emphasis on the role of the municipalities and county authorities in taking initiatives in the public sector to pave the way for commercial and industrial development, and major priority is given to the development of closer ties between regional and local plans and use of economic instruments. This involves new challenges for regional planning.

In the spring of 1997, the Government is to submit a report on environmental protection policy for ecologically sustainable development. This report deals more thoroughly with a number of areas previously treated only briefly as new challenges and as important considerations for regional planning and land-use policy. The national action plan for follow-up of the Convention on Biodiversity will be included in the report on environmental protection policy for sustainable ecological development.

In the transport area, four reports (long-term plans) are to be submitted in 1997: Management of harbours and coastlines, the Norwegian aviation plan, the Norwegian plan for railways and the Norwegian plan for roads and road traffic. On the basis of the general policy in the area, these plans will address a number of issues associated with regional planning and land-use policy.

1.4 Future challenges for regional planning and land-use policy

1.4.1 Sustainable development – the framework and direction for regional planning

Sustainable development is defined as a development that satisfies the needs of the current generation without ruining the potential for future generations to provide for their needs. The World Commission on Environment and Development points out that the concept is complex, and consists of social, economic and ecological aspects.

Developments have revealed that there will be reason in the future to focus even more keenly on the ecological basis for life on earth. The greenhouse effect and disturbances of nature posing a threat to biodiversity show that we are in a phase of social development where global thinking alone does not suffice, but needs to be followed up by global action. Environmental protection policy must focus more on our way of life, our consumption and production patterns and on the environmental problems that these factors give rise to than on large pollutive emissions from point sources. While contamination from large individual sources can be dealt with by means of legislation or taxes, complex social challenges can only be solved by applying the appropriate combination of instruments, where an important contribution can be made by planning in accordance with the provisions of the Planning and Building Act.

The goal of achieving sustainable development sets the premises for economic growth. It is for example important that changes are made in production and consumption patterns. These changes will affect the way we develop our society. At the same time as we must safeguard the interests of business and industry in ensuring efficient development, we must provide for external conditions that create satisfactory development patterns in the long term. The time frame for planning should be many decades, sometimes more than a hundred years. This is important to bear in mind, for instance, when planning major infrastructure projects. It cannot be assumed that today's mobility is compatible with sustainable development.

The benefits of today's welfare state are largely dependent on economic activity. The level of income derived from economic activities, including industrial enterprises, will also be important for the level of welfare enjoyed by future generations. At the same time, this economic activity often has a side-effect of environmental degradation. This balancing of economic growth and environmental considerations is perceived as being a characteristic of general and global development, which is often difficult for individual members of the public and local authorities to deal with. The slogan "think globally - act locally" should prompt people to ask themselves whether developments are heading in the right direction on the local level as well. There lies a challenge in constructing a common platform for understanding the importance of individual choices and actions in the fostering of an ecologically sustainable development.

Planning and management of land areas must increasingly consider biodiversity and the resources available for biological production

Norway has a lower population density than many other European countries. Not more than just over one per cent of the country has been built on. However, it is important to remember that only four per cent of the country is cultivable, and that settlements are mainly concentrated around this four per cent. It is therefore natural that conflicts arise concerning the use of these land areas. In order to secure land areas for future food production, it is therefore important that the management of these areas is carefully planned, as discussed in chapter 5.2.3.

The amount of land in the climate zones suitable for food production is limited. Production that is possible in a favourable climate, cannot be achieved in the poorer climate zones, see box 1.1. From 1945 to 1995, parts of the land especially suitable for cultivation of food grain were allocated for construction purposes. Nearly all cultivation reserves in climate zone 1 have been utilized. As a consequence of this, we have almost no land areas "in reserve" that are suitable for the production of food grain. If more land areas are allocated for construction purposes, we will not be able to compensate for this by more cultivation of new land. When deciding what purposes land should be used for, suitability for food production is therefore a major consideration.

In global terms, there is an alarming loss of biodiversity, and a threat to sustainable development. The aim of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which Norway ratified in 1993, is to preserve biological diversity. The Convention is founded on three central pillars: preservation of biological diversity, sustainable utilization of the biological diversity and an equitable distribution of goods deriving from genetic resources.

The greatest threat to biodiversity in Norway is the sum of the many developments that influence, reduce and split up areas of land, thereby damaging and disturbing the habitats of many forms of life. It is important that we succeed in putting a stop to this fragmentation and destruction of habitats.

It will only be possible to preserve a small part of the biodiversity in Norway by means of pure conservation and protection measures. In Norway, we have conserved 6.4 per cent of our mainland area through conservation legislation. The remainder falls mainly within the categories "agricultural area", "nature area" and "area for open-air recreation", defined by the Planning and Building Act. When all of the approved conservation plans have been implemented, approximately 13 per cent of Norway's mainland area will be conserved. A number of biotopes that are important for biodiversity will be represented in other parts of the country. It will therefore be of major importance to safeguard biodiversity through long-term management of the Norwegian areas that are outside the conservation areas, and this will have to be brought about using the Planning and Building Act, especially where land areas are concerned.

Not only does biodiversity represent a major utility value for society; in the long term, it is also necessary for the maintenance of the ecosystems. Preservation of biodiversity is thus one of the fundamental preconditions for sustainable development.

The value of biodiversity for play, recreation, outdoor life, education, etc. gives grounds for paying especial attention to access to green areas in towns and urban settlements. It is also important to acquire an improved insight into the cultural history factors underlying today's landscape and the current status of biodiversity.

Box 1.1 Cultivated and cultivable soil by climate zones

Climate zones

Cultivated soil

Cultivable soil


Zone 1 Highly suitable for cultivation of food grain




Zone 2 Suitable for cultivation of food grain




Zone 3 Marginally suitable for cultivation of food grain




Zone 4 Marginally suitable for cultivation of feed grain




Zone 5 Suitable for cultivation of coarse fodder




Zone 6 Less suitable for cultivation of coarse fodder




Total number of square kilometres




Regional planning is an important instrument for reducing local air pollution and noise

Regional and local authorities have a responsibility for helping to reduce local air pollution and noise. This applies both to prevention through planning and to remedial measures. The local authorities have a particular responsibility for environmental problems arising out of local decisions and conditions. The Planning and Building Act enables the municipalities to influence the planning of transport systems and land use. In many cases, geographical limitations at the municipal level preclude efficient solutions within the planning of land use and transport. It will be necessary to think in terms of larger regions if we are to achieve a reduction in the scale of transport while promoting public transport solutions through coordinated planning of land use and transport.

The Norwegian reform, "Environmental Protection in Municipalities", has increased the potential for furthering local environmental considerations, thereby taking into account local variations in the effects on the environment. Work on Local Agenda 21 and an active environmental revision of the Municipal Development Plans will enable the municipalities to focus on local air pollution and noise.

When striving to achieve the highest possible level of equality in fundamental areas of social welfare, such as health, it is relevant and desirable to lay down national minimum standards for the quality of the local environment. The Government has decided that the provisions of the Pollution Control Act shall be applied to transport. Regulations have been laid down pursuant to the Pollution Control Act specifying mandatory thresholds for local air pollution and noise. The regulations will assist in clearing up existing environmental problems, and will be founded on the EU directives on air quality subject to the EEA agreement.

Development of environmentally benign local communities

Global and international problems associated with the environment and resources arise as a result of a large number individual actions at the local level. Conventions and international agreements must therefore be followed up by central government, county authorities and municipalities, by developers and specialists, and not least by every single inhabitant of the local community concerned. This is the background for the high degree of emphasis placed on local efforts and involvement in the Convention on Environment and Development adopted by the United Nations Conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, where all countries are encouraged to develop action plans for environment and development in their municipalities and local communities, termed Local Agenda 21 plans.

Environmentally benign practice in local communities is dependent on the basic values and knowledge of individual members of the public, and on creating favourable conditions for such practice. The practical possibilities that we find in our local communities for giving priority to what we know to be environmentally benign or health-promoting behaviour influence our motivation to consider health and the environment in everyday life. The objectives associated with reduced consumption, separation of waste at source and composting, environmentally benign and reduced transport, understanding of nature, etc. are dependent on members of the public gaining their own experience through participation. Communication, education, interaction and the pleasure derived from social participation all play important roles. People who enjoy life and have a sense of belonging to the place where they live are often people for whom the local community plays an important role, and who are willing to contribute to safeguarding and developing important common values in society.

Box 1.2 The value of biodiversity

Biodiversity constitutes resources that are of major importance to human existence, quality of life, welfare and economic growth. The broad range of values can be divided into the following groups:

Utility values

Direct values

  • use/consumption of genes, species, nature and society or biological processes to supply fundamental and culturally dependent needs in society (food, medicines, clothing, houses, fuel, transport)
  • non-consuming uses of biodiversity (play, recreation, outdoor life, tourism, education, research)

Indirect values

  • fundamental processes and services of the ecosystem, e.g. substance turnover, creation of topsoil, recipient capacity, productivity, water economy, local climate, the stability and buffer capacity that is an essential precondition for human existence and economic activity.

Optional values

  • potential values that are not currently utilized (optional values), such as the genetic resources that constitute the raw materials of gene technology;

Passive values

  • values associated, for example, with the wish to know that a species exists (existence value) or that other people shall be able to have pleasure or use of it.
  • religious, ethical and moral values

The built environment consists of buildings, installations and infrastructure that is developed over a long time, and therefore contributes to regional and local identity and a feeling of belonging. It provides a historical view of the development of a human settlement and of the changes brought about by shifts in the political, social, cultural and technical conditions. The built environment constitutes important economic and knowledge resources that must be applied and used, qualities that must be allowed to underlie further social developments. It is important to take cultural heritage and cultural environments into account when developing environmentally benign local communities.

An important broad objective in the development of local communities is to improve living conditions for the inhabitants. Social networks must be strengthened, people must feel secure, the neighbourhood must be satisfactory for children to play in, for all kinds of outdoor activities. Planning and preparation of the physical environment is only one of many instruments for creating well functioning local communities. Experiences show that there is a close correlation between the physical environment, social conditions and people's living conditions. The physical environment determines the framework for people's everyday lives; for work, identity and the feeling of belonging to the place where they live, and for happiness, health and security. Planning also defines the framework for people's choices in organizing their daily lives, consumption patterns and habits that are formed in important areas, and ultimately also attitudes and values. Good localization and physical preparation are important for the whole population, especially for children, disabled people and for the increasing numbers of elderly people.

The contribution of environmental protection policy to an improved quality of life in local communities will be described in the Report to the Storting on Ecologically Sustainable Development that will be submitted later this year. Here area-oriented planning for enhanced environmental quality and environmentally benign practice in municipalities and local communities will be taken up as part of the work on Local Agenda 21. This report on regional planning only deals with the interconnection between the work on Local Agenda 21 and municipal development.

1.4.2 Economic and industrial development and efficiency – regional planning as an instrument

During recent years, planning and land-use policy have been given high priority, both nationally and internationally. In the reports "Europe 2000" and "Europe 2000+", the EU has analysed regional development and regional differences in Europe, and described the contribution that can be made by planning in these areas. The EU is working on common European guidelines (European Spatial Development Perspective) for planning policy in member countries. These are planned to be complete by Spring 1998. Several EU member countries have already prepared national plans as guidelines for their regional planning (European Spatial Development Perspective), in accordance with the available draft for common guidelines. In several of these plans, emphasis is placed on the links between planning and economic instruments, such as the EU structural funds.

In Norway too, a distinct characteristic of development is the role played by regional planning at the county and municipal levels as an important instrument for:

  • distributing district and regional economic policy instruments, i.e. associating instruments with plans
  • achieving efficient sectoral coordination in connection with land use, and bringing about synergy between different instruments and measures for accomplishing social, cultural and economic objectives
  • coordinating and stimulating regional development across national borders

The Government will place increased emphasis on overall community planning in interaction with, and as an important supplement to, market management. This is because regional planning can attend to important social considerations that the market cannot automatically take into account. In this connection, efficiency results from using a combination of instruments enabling the achievement of a result that promotes an efficient development in social economic terms. In relationship to some localization issues and in the balance between utilization and conservation of land areas, a combination of general economic instruments and management by means of land-use planning is the best way of allocating the resources of society. An active use of planning will be an important instrument of social development.

The Government adheres to its objective of maintaining the main characteristics of the settlement pattern, and further developing vital and dynamic regions in all parts of the country. Several industries will experience the need for reorganization and innovation in the years to come. The need for an efficient commercial and industrial development is therefore considerable. The county authorities have a central role to play in this work through the preparation of strategic guidelines for use of the funds available to the county authorities themselves, and parts of the funds available to the Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund at the regional level. The successful coordination of the industry-oriented efforts that help to support industrial and regional policy objectives for increased value added and competitive industry throughout the country constitutes a major challenge.

The County Governor has control of most of the funds for rural development that are an integral part of the agricultural policy instruments, and of the Agricultural Agreement. The aim is to use these funds to develop profitable workplaces in agriculture-related industries. Good interaction between the county authorities, the County Governor and the local office of the Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund will bolster efforts to achieve an effective commercial and industrial development.

A private sector consisting of profitable and competitive enterprises provides the basis for the welfare state and for maintenance of a high level of employment. The existence of competitive and profitable enterprises is therefore an essential concern of both industrial and district and regional policy, and a precondition for developing vital and dynamic regions with good labour market conditions and welfare facilities.

The county authorities and the municipalities are responsible for managing a considerable part of society's resources, and are involved in extensive activities in many areas of major importance to commerce and industry and to commercial and industrial development. Among other factors, this concerns land use, infrastructure and services within education, transport and municipal renovation services. Considerable challenges lie in arranging the use of resources in these areas to stimulate economic growth as a basis for competitive business and industry.

Planning in accordance with the Planning and Building Act is an important instrument in the application of resources by county and municipal authorities. Planning is a management tool for promotion of desired development. An important factor in achieving this is the coordination of the activities of the central government, the county authorities and the municipalities in major areas of public interest. Besides being important management tools, municipal plans and county development plans are used to promote national interests in different areas, e.g. for commercial and industrial policy.

Onshore industry is dependent on the existence of regulated areas for projects and on efficiency on the part of the municipalities in processing plans. Offshore industry is also dependent on access to land areas, and it is therefore important that this is taken into account by the municipalities when they choose to include sea areas in their plans. Planning must therefore embrace characteristics of change in commercial and industrial development and integrate these into the strategy for further land use. It is important that the municipal and county authorities practise the Planning and Building Act in such a way that it promotes commercial and industrial development and is an instrument for implementing the Government's objectives for commercial and industrial policy.

Strategic plans for business and industry and other regional industrial strategies seem increasingly to constitute a strict framework for commercial and industrial development in counties and municipalities. The drawing up of such plans gives the authorities the opportunity for a close dialogue with business and industry on ways of establishing favourable conditions for competitive business and industry. It is important that such strategies are founded on realistic assessments of the development potential of business and industry, and that they are firmly rooted in the national industrial policy objectives in relation to business and industry. For business and industry, it is of major importance that such processes prepare for solutions that reflect the actual needs of business and industry. This means that industrial planning must take as its point of departure the real challenges for business and industry.

Natural resources such as fish, soil, forest, minerals and hydroelectric power form the basis of Norway's long-term economic growth. Important industrial sectors are founded on reserves of energy and minerals that are found in rural areas. The safeguarding of incomes and satisfactory living conditions in the long term is dependent on enhancement of value added on the basis of local, renewable resources. The Government will maintain viable and sustainable agriculture throughout the country. Forestry plays an important role in economic growth, and accounts for a considerable part of Norway's export income.

Farming and forestry is the industrial sector that is most directly based on local natural resources. When assessing the resources available to agriculture, the value of land as a production factor is of primary importance. Almost all of the soil resources in the best climate zone are already cultivated, and very little land is available for new cultivation. Management of the resources available for agriculture and forestry must have a central place in land-use policy. Management of these areas must be based on using them to produce goods that supply basic human needs.

Society and business and industry will face major welfare and labour market challenges in the years ahead. Our future potential for creating secure jobs and incomes, improve our own quality of life, and ensure a satisfactory environment will be dependent on our strengthening economic growth in land-based business and industry. This must be carried out within the framework of an ecologically sustainable society. Accomplishment of this is dependent on an assertive industrial policy that promotes a growth-oriented industrial sector consisting of strong and profitable enterprises. It is of decisive importance for Norwegian society that business and industry are allowed operating conditions that promote the development of strong and secure local communities and profitable investments in commercial and industrial development in all parts of the country.

The Planning and Building Act must be further developed as an instrument within this perspective. The Government therefore views it as important that the municipal and county authorities practise the Act in such a way that it helps to promote commercial and industrial development and is one of a number of instruments used for implementing the Governments industrial policy objectives.

To ensure regional plans that as far as possible reflect national industrial policy and the challenges and development potential of enterprises, the private sector should be encouraged to participate actively in planning processes, both in municipalities and in county authorities. This is especially important in the preparation of strategic plans for business and industry, and other regional industrial strategies. This will result in more rapid progress by dealing with problems at an early stage. In the view of the Ministry of the Environment, it is important in the time ahead that priority is given to the further development of rational local planning processes, that take into account the needs of business and industry for participation and efficiency.

Extensive work has been carried out on rationalization of the planning system both as an instrument and as a process. This work was accelerated by the report of the Business Legislative Committee, which indicated significant improvement potential in the planning processes. The objective of the planning system is rational and high-quality processes where all decisions are well researched, and where conditions are established for broad participation, openness and transparency. It is of major importance that the planning system functions in such a way that decisions are predictable, and within an acceptable time frame and overall policy. By making further improvements in the background information for decisionmaking, it will be possible in most cases to reduce the length of time spent on dealing with cases because important adaptations to national and regional frameworks will be made at an early stage in the planning process. The Ministry of the Environment will continue to give priority to efficient procedures, and will strive to reduce the time spent on dealing with cases as much as possible.

1.4.3 Strengthened democracy and participation through regional planning

In the Long-term Programme 1998–2001, the Government holds up equality, liberty and solidarity as the fundamental values on which it constructs its policy. The realization of these values requires mobilization and participation by the general public. The Government emphasizes that the right of consultation must be fundamental to political administration and human activity. This means that all citizens must take their share of the responsibility, and commit themselves to cooperating with each other to create a secure society and a secure world. In our modern and complex society, people are all dependent on each other. We achieve more by collaborating on making decisions.

Planning in accordance with the Planning and Building Act is founded on these values, and on the principles of dialogue and participation in the planning processes. The Government therefore gives priority to stimulating the active use of the provisions concerning participation in planning. This particularly applies to planning in municipalities and in local communities where people live, and should as far as practically possible also apply to county planning.

Throughout the entire postwar period, the public have played a major role in the development of the Norwegian welfare state. Government instruments such as laws and regulations, economic management and government funding have all contributed to securing and improving welfare benefits. The development of measures founded on the principle of solidarity has been the mainstay and foundation of the Norwegian welfare state.

Parallel with the development of the public sector, which has safeguarded people's basic needs, there has also been an increase in alienation and in the feeling of powerlessness. Professionalism and a narrow sector-oriented approach in the public services and in management has in many areas given both the public and their elected representatives a feeling of reduced social responsibility. This may be one of the causes of the decline in election participation during recent years. This is a worrying trend, which underscores the need for a reinforcement of local democracy. In municipalities where children and young people have participated in work in the neighbourhood and in the local community, the interest for participation in local democracy has increased. This has resulted in an upsurge of interest in youth organizations attached to the various political parties, and young people have been elected to municipal councils.

Today's planning system must do all of the following:

  • contribute to an improved distribution of society's resources

Planning is intended to rectify cases where "the market" alone fails to realize the politically desirable distribution of benefits, and safeguard the interests of groups that lack "purchasing power" and interests that lack "profitability".

  • secure common interests in society

Many important benefits are, and must be, held in common, e.g. different types of infrastructure. These must be secured through public planning. Examples of this are national policy guidelines for children and our common interests in securing irreplaceable environmental assets.

  • improve knowledge about the long-term consequences of our actions and intentions

This means that planning can have a preventive effect. It can function as a learning process for those who participate, and can result in better decisions where more considerations are taken into account.

  • manage land use in society

Planning must be based on decisions resulting from broad participation by the general public within the framework of democratic processes. In such cases, planning cannot be replaced by general economic or legal instruments.

A special challenge lies in encouraging women to participate in planning at all levels. One of many important contributions to turning around the negative development in local communities and municipalities may be a well designed process for participation in municipal planning processes associated with topics that people are involved in. The basis for the feeling of belonging to a local community is developed through active participation in the structuring of the physical and social environment in one's own neighbourhood. An important challenge for municipalities will be to establish conditions for participation both in planning and in implementing agreed measures. In principle, this concerns the way in which participation by the general public can contribute to improving the dialogue between the public and their elected representatives, thereby reinforcing the local democracy. We all have something to learn from participation and local involvement, not least in relation to making more environmentally responsible choices. The challenge lies in encouraging different groups of the population to participate in the democratic process, and thereby consider the interests and needs of the whole community.

It is also important to take advantage of the opportunity for improving the quality of municipal services through participation of the users in the planning process. The users are those who know best where their problems lie, and participation in the planning of services can also stimulate individual initiative and constitute an additional resource in the planning and implementation of services.

The Ministry of the Environment will lay special emphasis on developing methods for establishing conditions to encourage increased participation by those involved. In this connection, it is important that the municipal and county authorities give priority to open and rational planning processes.

1.4.4 Regional planning must strengthen sectoral cooperation and interaction between administrative levels

Regional planning in the form of broad comprehensive community planning also necessitates coordination of the public involvement between administrative levels, sectors and industries. Here, it is important to be aware that, in some sectors, the responsibilities for planning and budgeting are separate. This can result in unrealistic or costly plans. The functioning of overall planning is dependent on moderation and realism.

The planning authorities do not have detailed knowledge of the requirements associated with individual professional sectors, and this is especially true at the municipal level. The municipal and county authorities are therefore reliant on being able to draw on the knowledge of the authorities within the different sectors when attending to the interests of those sectors in their plans.

The central government is responsible for defining the framework of conditions within each sector that must be taken into account if a satisfactory overall solution is to be achieved. When such a framework has been defined, it is the duty of the municipalities and the county authorities to use this as a basis for planning in relation to the sector concerned.

The need for coordinating the needs of different sectors in regional planning is most evident when dealing with the challenges and problems associated with social development, where problems in one sector are sometimes solved most effectively by introducing measures in another. For example, measures within the transport sector to prevent traffic accidents may have a greater social effect than measures within the health sector to repair the damage. In a similar way, the effect of measures within research and education to improve the qualifications of the labour force may be more beneficial to business and industry than economic support schemes for selected enterprises.

The Government wishes to emphasize the importance of cooperation between the different sectors and of their commitment to realizing the objectives of an approved county plan. The sectors that are to contribute through their own operational planning to implementing the action programme of the county plan must therefore have a sense of owning the plan, derived from active interaction throughout the entire planning process. This requires that the sectors have a common knowledge base, good dialogue and a satisfactory division of labour in the planning process, where all those concerned understand their roles and are aware of their responsibilities.

It is similarly important that there is good interaction between the municipalities, the county authorities and the regional and local representatives of central government concerning municipal and county planning. This applies not least in implementing cooperative measures and projects included in the plans. For all those affected by this public planning – both citizens and enterprises – it is important that the public authorities function as far as possible in a unified and consistent manner.

Parliamentary procedure

Follow the issue at the Storting