Regional planning

Many functions are suited for planning at the regional level. The county authorities are regional planning authorities. The country is divided into 19 counties. The county authorities are responsible for preparing regional planning strategies and any regional plans and planning provisions required.

Regional planning strategy as an arena for dialogue and cooperation.

Regional planning strategy as an arena for dialogue and cooperation.

Many planning issues concern factors that go beyond individual municipalities. Moreover, many functions cannot be resolved within the limits of the individual municipality. Clarification of regional plans is therefore important for the implementation of both national and municipal environmental and land use policies. A regional plan shall be able to attend to the functions and responsibilities that rest with the county authority as a regional development player.

A planning issue that has consequences for several municipalities is in principle a relevant topic for a regional plan. Issues such as transport and communication and infrastructure, housing and business development, teaching, soil conservation, outdoor recreation areas near cities/towns, coastal zone and watercourse management can be considered through regional planning.

The county council shall consider the regional planning strategy during the first year of the electoral term. The planning strategy shall describe the most important development trends and planning issues in the whole or parts of the region. The planning strategy shall be based on national goals and frameworks but emphasise local experience and know-how in the regional adaptation of the policy. The planning strategy shall be circulated for public comment before it is adopted.

Among other things, the planning strategy shall:

• give an account of important regional development trends and challenges
• assess how the challenges shall be followed up and which plans should be prepared – regional or inter-municipal
• clarify which authorities, government agencies and other parties should take part in planning processes and implementation.

The county council is responsible for ensuring that regional plans as specified in the planning strategy are prepared. Planning at the regional level differs from municipal planning in that it normally addresses limited issues and is adapted to functions and situations. A regional plan may apply to the whole region, parts of the region, or to a specific topic. Regional plans shall include an action programme for follow-up of the plan.

The work on regional plans shall take the form of a broad cooperation process in which government agencies shall participate when the planning affects their area of activity, or their own plans and decisions. No authority may decline to participate in the planning only to claim subsequently that the plan does not apply to them. It is important that the regional plans deal with issues that are important to the municipalities and that the municipalities are actively involved.

If a proposal for a municipal master plan conflicts with a regional plan, the county authority may make objections against the plan. This means that development plans that are in conflict with the regional plan may be stopped.

The county council may also adopt a regional planning provision for regional plans that contain guidelines for land use to ensure that no land use changes are adopted that are in conflict with the plan.

Intermunicipal planning cooperation

Intermunicipal planning cooperation is a way of implementing agreed regional strategies as an alternative to regional plans. Intermunicipal planning is planning in which several municipalities cooperate when it is expedient to coordinate planning across municipal borders. This is relevant in relation to planning issues that have a bearing on several municipalities. The type of collaboration can be chosen on the basis of the planning functions. The regional planning authority and government authorities may request that the municipalities initiate such cooperation. The planning cooperation shall be chaired by a board on which the municipalities are represented. The planning process and methods are the same as for municipal planning in general.

Regional planning forums

The planning forums arrangement shall ensure better coordination and cooperation between the many authorities that have an interest in the planning.

It is the county authorities that establish the regional planning forums. The participants in a planning forum may be government agencies, regional agencies and municipalities or organisations, depending on what matters shall be discussed and what interests are affected. The planning forums are a tool for identifying good solutions. Meetings can be held in different phases of the planning process. By discussing difficult issues that affect several interests at an early stage, objections can be avoided later on in the process.

Relevant documents

Report to the Storting No. 29 (1996-97) Summary (Regional planning and land-use policy)