National expectations regarding regarding regional and municipal planning (2015)

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation

The national expectations are an overview of the goals, tasks and interests that the government expects the counties and the municipal authorities to focus on in their planning in the coming years. The expectations shall guide regional and municipal planning. The county and municipal authorities are responsible for finding comprehensive solutions that are tailored to the local conditions and that safeguard local political interests and considerations, in addition to national and important regional interests.

Foreword
Role of national expectations in the planning system

Good, efficient planning processes
Sustainable land use and community development
Attractive, climate-friendly towns and urban areas

Foreword

The population of Norway is constantly rising. Population growth triggers positive developments in society and provides opportunities to find new solutions for urban development, economic growth and transport. However, population growth also puts pressure on land and infrastructure and entails challenges in terms of climate change, the environment and health.

By coordinating land use and transport, we can make optimal use of resources. At the same time, we must also ensure sufficient homes are built and good living conditions for all. In the coming years it will also be important to pave the way for increased value creation as well as innovation and growth in new, green industries.

Planning pursuant to the Planning and Building Act is an important common arena in our joint efforts to meet these challenges. The municipalities and the county authorities play key roles as development agencies and planning authorities in the work to ensure a safe, eco-friendly society with capacity for growth.

The government has enabled faster construction of housing, workplaces and transport by simplifying the rules for planning and building applications. These simplifications provide increased local autonomy, while handing over greater responsibility for finding good long-term solutions to the county and municipal authorities.

The purpose of this document is to promote collaboration with the municipal and county authorities with a view to achieving sustainable and more efficient land-use and community planning in the years to come.

Role of national expectations in the planning system

With the goal of promoting sustainable development, the government shall draw up a document every four years setting out national expectations regarding regional and municipal planning (section 6-1 of the Norwegian Planning and Building Act). The new county councils and municipal councils shall base their work on regional and municipal planning strategies and plans on these national expectations. The national expectations shall also steer the central government's participation in the planning. Follow-up from all parties will help improve coordination between the national, regional and local planning and make planning more predictable and targeted.

The national expectations are an overview of the goals, tasks and interests that the government expects the counties and the municipal authorities to focus on in their planning in the coming years. The expectations shall guide regional and municipal planning. The county and municipal authorities are responsible for finding comprehensive solutions that are tailored to the local conditions and that safeguard local political interests and considerations, in addition to national and important regional interests. This expectations document is not exhaustive in terms of all the tasks and considerations ascribed to the municipal and county authorities pursuant to the Planning and Building Act. This document must therefore be read in tandem with the current legislation and guidelines.

The first part of the document focuses on good, efficient planning processes. The second part deals with planning for sustainable land use and community development in general. The third part addresses planning to ensure attractive, climate-friendly towns and urban areas in more detail.

Good, efficient planning processes

It is a government priority to enable faster processes for planning of residential, business and transport developments. At the same time, the government is increasing local autonomy in planning. This means that the counties and municipalities have a greater responsibility to safeguard national and important regional interests.

Through better collaboration and rationalisation of the planning process, it is possible to cut the time spent on planning, while still safeguarding important considerations and maintaining the required quality. To ensure faster processes and reduce conflicts, the government is conducting a number of pilot projects in which the county governors of 12 counties have been given greater responsibility for coordinating central government objections. The government is also simplifying the Planning and Building Act and paving the way for increased use of ICT and expects the counties and municipal authorities to make use of the possibilities this affords.

Simpler regulations and better coordination

Amendments to the Planning and Building Act will result in faster and simpler processes. Specific changes that have been introduced include the removal of the five-year deadline for initiation of projects based on a private detailed zoning proposal. New deadlines have been introduced to ensure faster processing of plans, and the rules on impact assessments have been simplified. Similar simplifications have also been made in the building part of the Planning and Building Act, which will contribute to faster building processes and reduced building costs. The government will consider further simplifications.

By virtue of their role as the planning authority, the county and municipal authorities are responsible for ensuring that plans and decisions are based on sound, up-to-date knowledge and safeguard national and important regional interests. It is important that existing knowledge about the environment and society be actively used at an early stage in the planning process. Good mechanisms for dealing with conflicting interests in the planning phase will reduce the amount of time required. In this context, importance must be attached to early, binding involvement of the general public, the authorities concerned, stakeholders and interest groups. This can help minimise conflict, save time and improve the quality of the plans. In collaboration with central government bodies, the county authority and the Sámediggi (the Sami Parliament) the county governor shall clarify what constitute national and important regional interests in each individual case and advise on how these interests can be safeguarded. In this way any conflicts can be resolved as early as possible, and at the local level.

Regional planning forums have now been established in every county and are an important arena for identifying and coordinating interests in the work on regional and municipal plans. The government encourages all the parties to make active use of the planning forum. For the regional planning forum to be effective in the early identification of interests, it is essential that the county authorities ensure good routines and good management of the meetings. Municipalities should use the planning forum actively and report important issues. The county governor, other central government authorities, the Sámediggi and county authority itself must make participation in the planning forum a priority.

Collaboration and good processes will reduce the use of objections. The government is concerned that authorities that make an objection attach importance to the consideration of local democracy. Objections shall only be made when necessary to safeguard national and important regional interests and when early dialogue has not resolved the issue. The government is conducting a pilot project where 12 county governors have been given responsibility for coordinating and, where applicable, refuting central government objections to municipal plans. The aim is to improve the dialogue between the central government agencies and reduce the use of objections.

Good collaboration between the municipality and the developer of a project is a prerequisite for efficient progress and good quality in private zoning proposals. The municipality has a responsibility to allocate sufficient resources for considering plans and facilitating predictable processes. In this context, good routines for the start-up phase, a clear schedule for planning work, and early, clear requirements regarding quality, the need for assessments and documentation are important. The scope of assessments must be adapted to each case.

Targeted planning

The Planning and Building Act provides flexibility to adapt planning to local needs. The county and municipal authorities should use their planning strategies actively to identify the main challenges for regional and local community development and make targeted planning a priority. The government is also concerned that central government authorities do not require more extensive planning than necessary.

The planning strategies are intended to be a flexible tool, and it is important that the work on the municipal planning strategies is coordinated with the local government reform. For municipalities that are in the process of merging, the planning strategy can also be used as a tool to structure this debate. It may be appropriate for some municipalities to set up a common planning strategy; however, this will depend on how far the merger process has come.

Clear general guidelines on land use and community development will help ensure that detailed zoning plans can be processed more quickly and more predictably. In connection with the work on the planning strategy, it is important to prioritise resources for updating the general plans.

When planning specific areas for development, the municipalities should be aware of which type of plan and what degree of detail are most appropriate and avoid using more levels of planning than are necessary. Zoning plans should define and provide predictability about the main framework, while still providing room for practical adaptation. The level of detail should be assessed and a balance found so that the plans do not contain unnecessary requirements and limitations that impede their implementation. At the same time, the plans must ensure quality and safeguard important social considerations.

The Planning and Building Act allows applications for general permission to be submitted along with the zoning plan proposal and be processed with the planning proposal. Joint processing of planning and building applications can save time and ought to be used more actively. It is natural to use the start-up meeting for planning applications to determine whether joint processing is pertinent in the case in hand.

Greater use of ICT in planning

It is a government priority to increase the use of ICT in order to simplify the public sector. Increased use of ICT in planning will lead to more efficient and standardised planning processes as well as facilitating greater transparency and public participation for the population.

Easy access to electronic planning and topical data is a prerequisite for electronic processing of planning and building applications. The government's goal is that land-use plans are digitised and made available to the greatest extent possible and that all the municipalities establish an electronic planning register. Another goal is that more counties and municipalities enable electronic dialogue on planning to make it easier to participate in the planning process. Electronic dialogue on planning increases public accessibility and allows input and views to be conveyed more easily.

The Norwegian Mapping Authority is making arrangements for better access to planning and topical data through collaboration with municipalities, county authorities and other central government agencies on the public mapping data.

  

Type of plan or

  

planning strategy

  
  

County

  
  

Municipality

  
  

Central government authorities

  
  

Requirements for assessments

  

Regional planning strategy every four years

Prepare and adopt

Participate in planning process

Provide guidance and early input on   national and important regional interests

 

Regional plans, as required

Prepare and adopt

Participate in planning process

Provide guidance and early input on   national and important regional interests

Impact assessment as required. Assessment   in acc. with sections 8–12 of the Nature Diversity Act where biological,   geological or landscape diversity are affected

Municipal planning strategy every four   years

Provide guidance and participate   in the process. Provide early input on national and important regional   interests within their area of responsibility

Prepare and adopt

Provide guidance and early input on   national and important regional interests

 

The social element of the municipal master   plan is rolled over as needs dictate

Provide   guidance and participate in the planning process. Provide early input on   national and important regional interests within their area of responsibility

Prepare and adopt

Provide guidance and early input on   national and important regional interests

 

The land-use element of the municipal   master plan is rolled over as needs dictate

Provide guidance and participate in the   planning process, including organising a planning forum. Provide early input   on national and important regional interests within their area of   responsibility

Prepare and adopt.

Keep a planning register

Provide guidance and early input on   national and important regional interests

Risk and vulnerability assessment in acc.   with section 4-3 of the Planning and Building Act. Impact assessment.

Assessment in acc. with sections 8–12 of   the Nature Diversity Act where biological, geological or landscape diversity   are affected.

Any mandatory inquiries pursuant to section   9 of the Cultural Heritage Act

Municipal sub-plan for specific areas,   topics or areas of activity as needs dictate

Provide guidance and participate in the   planning process, including organising a planning forum. Provide early input   on national and important regional interests within their area of   responsibility

Prepare and adopt.

Keep a planning register

Provide guidance and early input on   national and important regional interests

Risk and vulnerability assessment in acc.   with section 4-3 of the Planning and Building Act. Impact assessment as   required. Assessment in acc. with sections 8–12 of the Nature Diversity Act   where biological, geological or landscape diversity are affected. Any   mandatory inquiries pursuant to section 9 of the Cultural Heritage Act

Zoning plan for implementation of major   building and construction projects and other projects that may have   substantial effects on the environment and society

Provide guidance and participate in the   planning process, including organising a planning forum. Provide early input   on national and important regional interests within their area of   responsibility

Prepare and adopt

Keep a planning register

Provide guidance and early input on   national and important regional interests

Risk and vulnerability assessment in acc.   with section 4-3 of the Planning and Building Act. Impact assessment as   required. Assessment in acc. with sections 8–12 of the Nature Diversity Act   where biological, geological or landscape diversity are affected. Any   mandatory inquiries pursuant to section 9 of the Cultural Heritage Act

The table shows the planning and assessment requirements, which plans only need to be prepared when needs dictate, and the various authorities' main responsibilities in the planning.

The government's expectations regarding regional and municipal planning

  • The county and municipal authorities base their planning proposals and decisions on sound, up-to-date knowledge and safeguard national and important regional interests. The county and municipal authorities ensure early participation and involvement of the general public, affected authorities, stakeholders and interest groups.
  • The county authorities strengthen the regional planning forum as an arena for early identification of interests and conflicts in planning matters, so that important considerations are addressed and objections are minimised. The municipalities make active use of the regional planning forum. The county governor, other central government authorities, the county authorities and the Sámediggi give priority to participation in the planning forum and clearly indicate the national and important regional interests in the individual case.
  • The county governor, other central government authorities, the county authorities and the Sámediggi attach importance to local self-government. Objections shall only be made when necessary to safeguard national and important regional interests and when early dialogue has not resolved the issue.
  • The municipalities make use of the opportunities for prioritisations and simplifications afforded by the Planning and Building Act. The municipalities update the overall plans, avoid more planning levels than necessary, ensure an appropriate degree of detail and make use of opportunities for joint processing of planning and building applications.
  • The municipalities ensure efficient processing of private zoning proposals and contribute to good plan quality by setting early, clear and relevant requirements regarding assessments and documentation.
  • The county and municipal authorities ensure easy access to electronic planning data through the use of electronic planning registers, and use tools for electronic planning dialogue and processing of planning and building applications.

Sustainable land use and community development

To prevent serious climate change, we need to prepare for a long-term transition to a low-carbon society in the coming years. We must also adapt to the effects of climate change that are already happening. This requires that we adopt stronger measures than we have done to date and that we ensure effective use of resources in land use and community development.                

At the same time, it will be important to pave the way for increased value creation and business development as well as innovation and growth in new, green industries. The government wants to highlight the roles played by the municipalities and county authorities as development agencies and planning authorities in the work to ensure a safe, eco-friendly society with capacity for growth.

A climate-friendly, safe society

Anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause of the changes we have seen in the climate in the last 50 years. The government is pursuing an ambitious national climate-change policy and is upping its work on the Climate Agreement. Norway is in talks with the EU on a joint agreement to reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. In addition, Norway is aiming to be a low-emissions society by 2050.

In 2014 Norway's land-based greenhouse gas emissions totalled 53.8 million tonnes, which is an increase of 3.5% from 1990. After oil and gas extraction and manufacturing, the transport sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Currently some 31%of Norway's emissions are from transport, of which 19%are from road transport alone.

 

Development in domestic greenhouse gas emissions by sector, 1990–2014. Preliminary figures. Source: Statistics Norway.

Despite economic growth and high population growth, Norway's total energy consumption has remained relatively stable in recent years. This is primarily because of energy rationalisation in certain sectors. The transport sector and households are large energy consumers. Energy consumption for transport has risen in recent years and accounted for 27% of the domestic energy consumption in 2014. Energy consumption in homes and holiday homes has levelled off in recent years and amounted to 21% in 2014.

Regional and municipal planning is essential to limit energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. All decisions about the location and design of businesses, housing, infrastructure and services affect energy consumption and emissions for a long time into the future. To achieve the transition to a low-emissions society, great importance must be attached to efficient land use and to coordinating land use and transport systems. In new development areas for commercial and residential purposes, opportunities for use of waste heat, geothermal energy and ocean thermal energy conversion should be exploited. The government is preparing new energy requirements that will also contribute to more energy-efficient and climate-friendly buildings.

However, even if we reduce emissions, climate change will amplify the challenges entailed by the natural conditions in Norway. Rising sea levels, increased risk of flooding and landslides, extreme weather events and heavy, intense rainfall will entail increased and new challenges for planning.In recent years natural disasters have increasingly shown how entire communities can be affected, with the risk of loss of life, health and critical infrastructure. The number of compensation cases as a result of natural disasters has increased significantly over the last decade. Climate change also includes longer-term effects for biological, geological and landscape diversity and nature-based industries.

The Norwegian Centre for Climate Services (KSS) is going to prepare climate profiles for all the counties in Norway for use as part of the knowledge base for planning. The government is also preparing central government planning guidelines for climate change adaptation. These guidelines will help ensure society is better equipped to address climate change and shall form the basis for national, regional and municipal planning.

Planning for a safe society must also take into account other risk factors than climate change alone. It is important that the county and municipal authorities' work on risk and vulnerability assessments is cross-sectoral and provides a good knowledge basis that can be used to prevent and reduce potential risk and vulnerability factors. Risk and vulnerability assessments for development plans should be considered together with the general risk and vulnerability assessments for the municipality.

Active management of natural assets and cultural heritage

Norway has unique natural assets that must be taken into consideration in planning. These assets are also an important resource for recreational activities and business development. Change in land-use is the main factor affecting threatened nature in Norway today. Some 87% of the threatened and near-threatened species have been or are affected by changes in land use. Many changes in land use, each of which in isolation has only a small effect, can together substantially reduce biological, geological or landscape diversity and lead to more species and habitats becoming threatened. It is therefore a particular challenge to ensure comprehensive planning, in which the impacts on biological, geological and landscape diversity are seen in the context of larger areas and multiple interventions.

It is important that the municipal and county authorities have knowledge about the significance of the various ecosystems for adaptation to climate change. Habitats such as wetlands, marshes, riverbanks and forests can mitigate the effects of climate change and must be safeguarded in land-use planning.

Cultural heritage monuments and environments are important for our sense of identity and continuity as well as being an important resource for economic development. The main reasons for the loss or deterioration of cultural heritage assets are the increasing pressure to develop land and failure to use existing built environments, available as a result of closures in traditional industry and farming. The municipalities have the main responsibility for identifying, evaluating and managing the cultural heritage monuments that warrant protection in line with national objectives. The county authority and the Sámediggi are responsible for safeguarding the national cultural heritage interests and assisting the municipal authorities with guidance.

The government contributes with grants to preserve cultural heritage monuments, natural areas and outdoor recreation areas and helps strengthen the knowledge base through surveys, research and dissemination.

Future-oriented business development, innovation and expertise

For many years there has been a general trend towards increased efficiency in the primary industries and manufacturing, resulting in fewer jobs. At the same time, we are seeing growth in public and private service provision, which tends to be concentrated in towns and cities. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years. Nevertheless, industry, agriculture and fishing are still important sectors in many municipalities.

 

People employed in main industrial groups (%). Source: Statistics Norway and the Norwegian Ministry of Finance, 2013.

The government wants to promote economic development and innovation in all parts of the country. This will pave the way for strong industrial clusters and good interaction between the cities and their surrounding areas, as well as ensuring that research, education and expertise spur future business development. The government has initiated a development programme for urban regions in which many municipalities are taking part. The municipalities and county authorities play a central role in facilitating business development by integrating innovation and expertise in the planning process and ear-marking sufficient land for business activities.

Access to labour with relevant skills, combined with maintenance and further development of existing skills in enterprises, is essential to ensure increased value creation, growth and equal living conditions throughout Norway. In 2016 the government will present a national skills strategy addressing the main challenges across traditional sectors and administrative levels, focusing on education, the employment market and business development. Regional planning provides a good basis for better coordination between levels of government and sectors as well as between private and public players in this field.

Agriculture and commercial utilisation of outfield resources are important for food and crop production, settlement and the cultural landscape in Norway. In addition, they are an important resource for new, green industries. It is a national goal to facilitate increased value creation related to agricultural and forestry resources, for example through investment in green tourism, food with a local identity and exploitation of bioenergy.

Less than 3% of Norway's total area is cultivated land. Reallocation of cultivated and cultivable land for purposes other than farming has been reduced, and in recent years permission has been granted for cultivation of significant new areas of land. Nevertheless, there is still considerable reallocation of cultivable land, and good farmland is hard to replace. In 2014 more than 500 hectares of land were reallocated. It is an important task in planning to safeguard good farmland, while striking a good balance between soil conservation and society's other needs. The government is preparing a national bioeconomy strategy for renewal of and improving efficiency in the primary industries, as well as a dedicated soil conservation strategy.

Planning must protect the natural resource basis for Sami culture, economic activity and social life, and Sami interests shall be ensured participation in areas where they are affected. Reindeer husbandry is an area-dependent industry, and in many places it is a prerequisite for the development of the Sami language and culture. It is an important task in planning to safeguard reindeer husbandry areas and to strike a balance between the interests of reindeer husbandry and other societal interests. A particular challenge in this respect is avoiding a situation whereby numerous changes in land use, each of which in isolation has a relatively small effect, together result in a permanent reduction of land areas and increased obstacles for reindeer husbandry.

Development of areas for holiday homes and tourism provide a basis for important economic development in many rural municipalities. In this context, the landscape and outdoor recreation opportunities are both an important resource and an asset that must be protected through municipal and regional planning. With a view to ensuring that we are able to preserve and develop outlying areas in a good and efficient manner in the future, the government has initiated a project to simplify the management of wilderness areas.

The fishery and aquaculture industries are major export industries that contribute to activity and employment all over Norway and especially in many coastal communities. The government wants to ensure predictable growth in the salmon and trout farming industry, where the main criterion in the regulation of the industry will be environmental sustainability. Regional and municipal land-use planning is essential to ensure sufficient space is set aside to meet the fishery and aquaculture industries' long-term needs. At the same time as sufficient land must be allocated for future aquaculture, the use of already allocated areas must be optimised, with a clear focus on environmental considerations. Planning must also address other societal interests and considerations in the coastal zone. The government will provide guidance on integrated management and planning of sea areas, as well as contributing to the development of planning tools and improving the knowledge base.

Norway has considerable mineral resources that modern society needs, and recovery could provide a basis for value creation. The geophysical mapping of mineral resources in Norway is being continued. In the long term, this knowledge may promote greater value creation and new jobs. Regional and municipal land-use planning must ensure access to commercially viable mineral deposits in the future while taking account of other environmental and societal considerations.

The government's expectations regarding regional and municipal planning

  • The county and municipal authorities give priority to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy conversion and improving energy efficiency through their planning and location of business activities, housing, infrastructure and services.
  • The county and municipal authorities take into account climate change and risk and vulnerability in their community and land-use planning and processing of building applications. The municipalities ensure that risk and vulnerability assessments are carried out for development plans that provide a good knowledge basis that can be used to prevent and reduce potential risk and vulnerability factors. Particular attention should be paid to natural hazards and current and future climate change.
  • The county and municipal authorities identify important assets in terms of biological, geological and landscape diversity, outdoor recreation, cultural heritage monuments and environments and take these into account in regional and municipal plans. Available knowledge is actively used, and the aggregated effects are identified and taken into account.
  • The county authorities facilitate better access to qualified, relevant labour that meets the needs of the regional employment market. Planning takes place in partnership with players in education, the employment market and industry, across sectors and levels of government.
  • The county and municipal authorities cooperate on planning for wealth creation, sustainable business development and innovation in partnership with the private sector and regional and local actors. Sufficient land is set aside for industrial development that safeguards the needs of the business community and which is situated on the basis of the considerations of coordinated housing, land-use and transport planning.
  • The county and municipal authorities safeguard important agricultural areas and pave the way for new, green industries related to agriculture and forestry, such as green tourism, food with a local identity and development of bioenergy.
  • The county and municipal authorities ensure the natural resource base for Sami culture, economic activity and social life, and Sami interests are ensured participation in planning in areas where they are affected. Planning safeguards reindeer husbandry land, while ensuring the needs of reindeer husbandry are balanced against other societal interests.
  • The county and municipal authorities ensure sufficient areas for fisheries and aquaculture in planning in coastal zones, achieving a balance between this and environmental and other societal interests. The need for land must be seen in a regional perspective.
  • The county and municipal authorities ensure access to commercially viable mineral deposits for possible recovery, achieving a balance between this and environmental and other societal interests. The need for and access to raw materials for buildings must be regarded in a regional context.
  • The Norwegian Armed Forces' needs for land are taken into account when necessary to safeguard the country's defence capabilities and in accordance with national defence plans.

Attractive, climate-friendly towns and urban areas

Population growth in towns and urban areas is putting pressure on land and infrastructure, resulting in challenges for traffic management, health and the environment. At the same time, population growth also provides opportunities to find new solutions for urban development, business development and transport.

The government attaches importance to good collaboration with the county and municipal authorities on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating well-functioning towns for businesses and the people who live in them. Good planning is essential to ensure efficient land use, an environment-friendly transport system, sufficient residential construction, healthy and safe surroundings and good living conditions for all.

Coordinated housing, land-use and transport planning

The population growth in Norway is largely due to immigration and the fact that we are all living longer. Growth is highest in towns and cities. Over 80% of the population of Norway currently lives in towns and urban areas, and growth is expected to be strongest in these areas in the coming years too.

Parallel to the growth in towns and urban areas, inadequate coordination between transport systems and residential, business and workplace locations also poses a challenge. To reduce urban sprawl, transport needs and greenhouse gas emissions, we need to develop compact towns and cities and build densely around public transport hubs. Compact urban developments reduce land consumption and transport needs and strengthen the basis for public transport, cycling and walking. New urban developments and residential construction are already being based on transformation and densification in many places, and there is still a large potential to increase land-use efficiency in most towns and urban areas.

 

Expected population growth in the municipalities, relative change (%) from 2014 to 2040. Source: Statistics Norway.

Development patterns and transport systems must be coordinated across municipal boundaries through collaboration between the municipalities, the counties and the central government. In 2004 the government adopted new central government planning guidelines for coordinated housing, land-use and transport planning. These must be adhered to in planning at the national, regional and municipal levels and are intended to contribute to future-oriented urban development.

Regional planning should identify development patterns and the main features of the transport system. Long-term borders ought to be drawn between urban areas and large contiguous agricultural, natural and outdoor recreation areas. Another important task of regional and municipal planning is ensuring sufficient residential construction through coordinated housing, land-use and transport planning. This is particularly important in areas with pressure on the housing market. Plans shall pave the way for varied development adapted to the needs of different groups, including families with children, the elderly and immigrants. The government is preparing an action plan to help ensure a better functioning housing market.

A future-oriented, eco-friendly transport system

Population growth creates increased demand for passenger transport, especially in and around towns and urban areas. The need for freight transport is expected to follow the economic activity levels. The transition to a low-emissions society requires that emissions from transport be significantly reduced.

The government wants to develop a modern, future-oriented transport system that will result in faster, safer and more environment-friendly traffic. There is a need for more efficient road and rail links between regions. In towns and urban areas there is a particular need for investments in public transport, cycling and walking. The principles of coordinated land-use and transport planning must form the basis for future community development, in order to reduce the need for transport and strengthen environment-friendly transport.

The government is investing heavily in improving the railways around the major cities, for example through the Intercity initiative. The government expects regional and municipal planning to support these initiatives through high utilisation of space around stations. At the same time, the national cycling strategy, the national walking strategy and a special reward scheme for measures that facilitate pedestrian and cycle paths will promote cycling and walking as modes of transport. The government encourages the counties and municipalities to implement measures to ensure cycling and walking are safe and attractive.

In metropolitan areas, it is a national goal that growth in transport needs shall be met by public transport, cycling and walking. This requires substantial restructuring and investment. In the largest urban areas, the government is contributing to county and municipal initiatives to increase public transport, cycling and walking through so-called urban packages and planned urban environment agreements. To ensure better coordination of development patterns and investments in the transport network, binding urban development agreements between the state and the metropolitan areas are also being introduced.

Increased investment in competitive freight transport and sustainable transport distribution is required. It is a national goal that a larger share of freight shall be transported by sea and rail. The county and municipal authorities in collaboration with central government agencies are responsible for ensuring that freight terminals and ports are given priority in planning. Freight terminals and ports must be developed as efficient logistics hubs, and fairways for shipping must be taken into account. Effort should be made to ensure that activities that create heavy transport are located in areas with good access to rail, ports and the main road network.

The government is aiming to halve the planning time for major road and railway developments. Key measures in this respect include increased use of central government plans, the trial system for coordination of objections and the amendments to the Planning and Building Act. This could simplify the processes in major transport and communications projects, while ensuring other important societal interests are safeguarded. The county and municipal authorities should contribute actively in the work on choice of concept studies and central government planning processes for major transport and communications infrastructure and installations. They should also facilitate efficient processes and rapid processing of municipal sub-plans and zoning plans.

Living town centres

With their easy access to markets, professional milieus and qualified workers, towns and urban areas are becoming increasingly important in business development and wealth creation. Towns and urban areas also function as a hub for the surrounding rural area and as an engine for regional development. At the same time, more people want to live in towns and urban communities. We must therefore develop urban communities that are both attractive for businesses and healthy and good to live in.

A living town centre with a varied offering of housing, shops, services and cultural activities is a key factor for the attractiveness and competitiveness of towns and urban areas. Many urban centres currently have little life and activity, and high street shops are losing market shares. With a view to strengthening town centres, it is important that the municipalities have an active, coordinated policy for the development of central areas and pave the way for establishment of homes, workplaces and service functions in the central areas. Compact development of towns and urban areas will contribute to increased activity in the centre, at the same time as short distances between people's homes and their workplace and daily needs simplify everyday life. Good facilities for pedestrians will also boost activity in town centres. The municipalities and the private sector are encouraged to collaborate on the development of town centres.

In the future people will want towns and urban areas with both urban and green qualities, and with attractive urban spaces, meeting places and outdoor areas. Good architecture, historic buildings and urban environments contribute to local identity and a positive feel to the town centre and are resources that ought to be exploited to develop attractive urban centres.

Health and well-being

People's local environment affects their health, well-being and prospects. Noise and local air pollution have an adverse effect on people's health in several towns and urban areas. The main source of pollution is road traffic. Children, old people and people with heart and lung disease are especially vulnerable to air pollution. At the same time, more people are suffering from diseases related to lifestyles and the population is ageing. In some cities there are also challenges related to poor living conditions in certain areas.

Population growth, increased immigration and the ageing population are key factors in future planning related to public health, community development and social infrastructure. The government's aim is to create a society that protects the health of the entire population, reduces social inequalities in health and promotes health-friendly choices. Through their planning, the county and municipal authorities can pave the way for good local communities and residential areas, physical activity and a health-promoting environment. In view of the growing proportion of old people, steps ought to be taken to ensure that as many senior citizens as possible can remain living at home and manage their daily tasks on their own. By creating common meeting places and enabling participation in social and cultural activities, planning can contribute to integration and a sense of belonging for all population groups.

Physical activity can prevent, delay or alleviate several chronic diseases. Planning can help build a good framework for a healthier lifestyle with increased activity for all population groups. Municipalities can contribute to increased physical activity by making it possible for people to cycle and walk more in their every-day life and by ensuring access to areas for play, sports, recreation and local outdoor activities for children, young people and adults. These areas ought to be accessible without the use of a car. The work on facilitating physical activity should be done in a collaboration between the municipalities, landowners, sporting associations and outdoor activity organisations. Children and young people have the right to participate in and exert an influence on the planning process, and they can provide valuable input about their own local environment.

Since the growth in towns and urban areas is largely to be achieved through transformation and densification, it is particularly important to preserve natural assets and opportunities for outdoor recreation in the local environment. It is also important to make sure that developments do not increase vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change. Contiguous green areas and open waterways in and around Norwegian towns and urban areas contribute to biological, geological and landscape diversity, positive experiences, knowledge and quality of life, in addition to helping mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Universal design shall form the basis of all planning in order to ensure society is accessible to all and to prevent discrimination against certain groups.

The government supports knowledge building through funding for research, area programmes and various pilot studies and exemplary projects for towns and urban areas. The planning initiative aimed at the four largest metropolitan areas in Norway will contribute to future-oriented urban planning, better urban environments and increased residential construction in urban areas. Support is also given for physical and social measures targeting specific areas through the Norwegian State Housing Bank and the cities grant.

The government's expectations regarding regional and municipal planning

  • The county and municipal authorities establish a regional development pattern, urban centre structure and the main features of the transport system, including hubs for public transport. Planning must ensure long-term borders are drawn between urban areas and large contiguous agricultural, natural and outdoor recreation areas. The central government, the county authorities and the municipal authorities base their own decisions on approved plans.
  • The regional and municipal planning facilitates sufficient varied residential construction, located on the basis of coordinated housing, land-use and transport planning.
  •  The municipalities ensure high utilisation of the space around public transport hubs, facilitate greater use of cycling and walking in daily life, and ensure continuous pedestrian and bicycle routes of high quality. The potential for densification and transformation is exploited before new areas are developed.
  • The county and municipal authorities contribute actively in the work on choice of concept studies and central government plans for major transport and communications infrastructure and installations. The municipalities facilitate efficient processes and expedient processing of municipal sub-plans and zoning plans for transport and communications infrastructure and installations.
  • The municipalities in collaboration with central government expert authorities contribute to freight terminals and ports being prioritised in planning and that these are developed as efficient logistics hubs.
  • The county and municipal authorities in metropolitan areas ensure that growth in transport needs is covered by public transport, cycling and walking, and actively follow up urban environment agreements and urban development agreements with the central government.
  • The municipalities pursue an active, coordinated policy for development of town centres in order to create a good, living urban environment. The municipalities take steps to ensure the establishment of housing, workplaces, shops, services and social meeting places in town centres. Binding collaboration agreements between the municipality and the private sector should be a priority. Architecture, cultural heritage monuments, landscape assets, water and green elements are actively used as resources in the development of town centres.
  • The municipalities ensure safe, health-promoting living environments for all population groups, free of harmful noise and air pollution.
  • The municipalities safeguard the natural assets and facilitate physical activity and well-being for the entire population by ensuring contiguous green areas, open waterways and close access to areas for play, sports, recreation and local outdoor activities.
  • The municipalities base their planning of the surroundings and buildings on the principles of accessibility and universal design.