Article | Last updated: 17/11/2021 | Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development
Given that many planning issues affect circumstances beyond the individual municipality, the county authority is the regional planning authority. In the regional planning area, the key tools are regional planning strategy, regional planning, intermunicipal planning cooperation and the regional planning forum.
At the regional level, there are two planning tools for use by the county authorities:
- Regional planning strategy
- Regional plan
In addition, the county authorities shall establish a regional planning forum to contribute to coordination and cooperation in municipal and regional planning processes. Furthermore, two or more municipalities should cooperate on planning when it is useful to coordinate planning across municipal borders in intermunicipal planning cooperation.
The county authorities are the regional planning authority, and are responsible for adopting the regional planning strategy and regional plans. Intermunicipal plans are prepared and adopted by several municipalities jointly, as an alternative to a regional plan. Regional and intermunicipal planning clarifications are important for the implementation of national, regional and municipal policy, and can for example apply to transport projects and infrastructure, housing and commercial development, social and cultural development, education and competence, public health, soil conservation, mountain areas, leisure buildings, forest areas, the coastal zone and watercourse management.
Regional and intermunicipal plans are tools for arriving at common solutions in a region. Many societal challenges and tasks are best resolved by planners and politicians viewing the land areas and areas of responsibility of several municipalities in context. All planning issues of significance to several municipalities can be relevant topics in a regional or intermunicipal plan.
The county authorities and the municipalities shall ensure that the regional and intermunicipal planning processes are open and predictable. They shall facilitate the public participation of citizens, businesses, organisations, institutions and public bodies in the planning process. All plans shall contain a description of the purpose of the plan, the main contents of the plan and how the plan will affect the environment and society. Planning proposals are circulated for comment and presented for public scrutiny before they are adopted by the county council or the municipal councils.
The county council shall, within one year after it has been constituted, prepare and adopt a regional planning strategy. The work shall be based on national goals and frameworks, and shall contribute to the follow-up of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In the planning strategy, the county authority should describe the most important development features in the region, and on this basis assess the challenges and development opportunities. As part of the planning strategy, the county council shall adopt long-term goals for development in the region and decide which issues are to be worked on further through regional plans. It can also be discussed whether the county authority believes that certain issues can best be resolved through intermunicipal plans. The regional planning strategy is the only planning document that is compulsory for the county authorities.
The regional planning strategy shall always contain an overview of how the prioritised planning functions are to be followed up. The overview shall describe which forms of plans should be used, for example whether a plan shall be prepared for the entire county or whether plans shall be prepared for specific areas or purposes instead. In addition, it should be stated who will participate in the preparation of the plans, the purpose of the plans and how others who will be affected will be involved in the planning work.
Central government and regional bodies and municipalities are obliged to use the regional planning strategy as a basis when preparing plans or participating in planning processes in the region.
How a regional planning strategy is prepared
The work on the regional planning strategy shall take place in collaboration with municipalities, central government bodies and organisations and institutions that are affected. While it is up to the county authority to decide what is the most expedient form of cooperation, it is an advantage that the cooperation starts early in the process. The proposal for a regional planning strategy shall be presented for public scrutiny and circulated for comment to the actors who have participated in its preparation. The time limit for submitting comments and input shall be a minimum of six weeks, and after these have been assessed, it is the county council that adopts the regional planning strategy.
If the county authority also, simultaneously with the regional planning strategy, initiates work on a regional plan, the planning programme for this plan can be included as part of the work on the regional planning strategy. This will save time so that the regional plan can be adopted more quickly.
The county council is responsible for preparing the regional plans that are decided in the planning strategy. The regional plans may apply to land use in all or parts of the county, or specific topics for all or parts of the county. In the regional plans, it is particularly important that the county authorities address tasks that require clarification across sector and municipal boundaries, and which must be carried out by many actors in collaboration. Regional cooperation to follow up the UN Sustainable Development Goals is an example of such a task. The regional plan is intended to be a flexible planning instrument, and the county authorities can therefore adapt its use according to need and situation. Regional plans shall have a long-term perspective, preferably at least twelve years.
The county council can adopt a regional planning provision for regional plans that provide guidelines for land use. It will be legally binding on the municipalities, and shall ensure that the municipalities do not adopt changes in land use that are contrary to the regional plan. Regional planning provisions can be adopted as part of the regional plan, or put forward in a separate planning process. Regional planning provisions apply for up to ten years, and can be extended by up to five years at a time.
All regional plans shall have a programme of action that shows how the plan is to be followed up. The contents of the programme of action must be adapted to the type of issues the plan addresses. A thematic plan that is mainly aimed at providing services will require other instruments than plans with guidelines for land-use planning. The programme of action should estimate the need for resources to follow up the plan, and show who is responsible for implementing the plan and with whom they will collaborate. The county council adopts the programme of action as part of the regional plan, and shall annually assess whether there is a need to roll out the action programme. The roll-out of the programmes of action for the regional plans should be seen in connection with the roll-out of the county authority's finance plan.
Regional plans shall form the basis for the activities of regional bodies and for the planning and activities of the municipalities and central government in the county.
How a regional plan is prepared
The work on a regional plan shall be a broad cooperation process in which central government bodies shall participate when the planning affects their area of activity, or their own plans and decisions. The Sami Parliament shall participate when the plan affects Sami areas. No authority can "remove itself" from the planning process and in the next round claim that the plan cannot apply to them. It is important that the regional plans address issues that are important to the municipalities and that the municipalities are actively involved. Organisations and institutions with interests in the planning process should also be involved.
If central government bodies or municipalities have significant objections to a proposal for a regional plan, they may demand that the plan be considered by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. They can demand this if they believe the plan does not follow up or safeguard important national or municipal interests. The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development decides whether the objections shall be taken into account, and may in connection with this make necessary changes to the plan.
Intermunicipal plans are prepared for planning issues of significance to several municipalities, but where for various reasons it is not relevant to prepare a regional plan. Both municipal master plans and zoning plans can be prepared as an intermunicipal master plan. It should be clarified in the work on the regional planning strategy whether a regional or intermunicipal plan is most expedient in the individual case. The county authority and central government authorities can request the municipalities to start an intermunicipal planning cooperation if they believe it is necessary in order to resolve current challenges.
The intermunicipal planning cooperation is led by a board with the same number of representatives from each municipality, unless the municipalities agree otherwise. The planning process and methods are otherwise the same as for the preparation of a municipal master plan or zoning plan.
The plan must be adopted by each municipal council. The Act contains provisions on what can be done in the event of a disagreement between the municipalities.
The regional planning forum is a scheme that will ensure better coordination and cooperation between the many authorities that have interests in the planning process. The county authority establishes and operates a regional planning forum. The participants in the planning forum can be central government bodies, the Sami Parliament, regional bodies and municipalities or organisations, depending on which issues are involved and which interests are affected. The purpose of the planning forum is to find good solutions, and the meetings can be held in different phases of the planning process, depending on need. By discussing difficult issues that affect several interests at an early stage, objections can be avoided later in the process.