Public participation – due process protection and right of appeal

As the planning authority, the municipality has a special duty to ensure that other authorities and private parties have complied with the requirement for public participation in the preparation of the planning proposal.

The duty to facilitate active participation is the same for both authorities and private persons. The municipality shall also facilitate participation by groups that otherwise find it difficult to be heard in the planning process.

Participation in the planning process is important to ensure that plans and projects are in accordance with the interests and needs of the population. Expedient participation can also clarify conflicts before the plans are adopted and contribute to equal treatment. The new Act provides opportunities for input and influence throughout the planning process. The Act promotes public participation in the preparation of regional and municipal planning strategies, planning programmes, planning descriptions and environmental impact assessments, consultation and circulation for public comment. Strategies and planning proposals shall be available via the internet. Input early on in the planning process increases the possibility of influencing the design of the planning proposal.

Proposals for detailed zoning plans from private parties who wish to implement projects can be considered quickly and easily when they tally with the land use element of the municipal master plan (and any area zoning plans). The municipality shall consider the private planning proposal within 12 weeks. The Act also contains a separate provision on the possibility of joint processing of a private zoning plan proposal and a building application for the same project.

All individual decisions and zoning decisions may be appealed, but there is only one round of appeal. This means that affected parties that wish to raise objections must make sure to appeal while the period of appeal is still extant. The municipalities must also take due care to notify the parties about the duration of the appeal period. There is also a general right of access to planning proposals. The provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Act apply to planning proposals and plans.