National framework and planning functions

The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation is the supreme authority in the land use policy at the national level. National expectations in respect of planning, central government planning guidelines and planning provisions govern land use at the regional and municipal levels.

Responsibility for planning and adopting plans pursuant to the Act rests with the King (the Government), the county councils and the municipal councils.

The Government is tasked with developing and disseminating national goals and guidelines for planning in counties and municipalities, and with approving regional planning strategies. Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation shall determine contentious cases and ensure that the Act is used correctly. The county councils shall prepare and adopt regional planning strategies and regional plans. The municipal councils are responsible for ensuring that the required municipal master plans and zoning plans are prepared in the municipality.

The Act covers many forms of planning, from technical and detailed zoning plans where they intersect with building applications, to overriding community planning of a fundamental or strategic nature. Land use is made legally binding on individual landowners through plans that decide what building and installation projects and what activities are permitted in the area.

The planning shall safeguard municipal, regional and national interests and must therefore take place in close consultation with central government expert agencies, organisations, business and industry and the population. The central government and the county authorities represent different interests through different expert agencies at the national and regional level. This applies, for example, to environmental protection, agriculture, fisheries, road and rail transport. Such expert agencies have the right to make objections in relation to municipal master plans in their area of expertise. Objections to municipal master plans entail that the plan cannot be adopted by the municipal council but must be sent to the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation for decision if the parties fail to agree. 

The close links between central government guidelines, zoning plans and building applications.The Planning and Building Act defines a clear hierarchy of decision-making levels, at the same time as it encourages interaction between and consistent processing at the different levels.

The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation is the supreme authority in the land use policy at the national level. National expectations in respect of planning, central government planning guidelines and planning provisions govern land use at the regional and municipal levels.

Report No 26 (2006–2007) to the Storting The Government’s Environmental Policy and the State of the Environment in Norway sets out the main framework for the national land use policy.

National expectations of planning in counties and municipalities

Planning at the regional and local level shall take place within the framework of national policy and be an effective tool for coordination between sectors and administrative levels. A document that sets out the Government’s expectations of regional and municipal planning shall therefore be prepared every four years. This document shall form the basis for regional and municipal planning strategies, which shall be prepared by county authorities and municipalities at the start of each electoral term.

Important topics - national expectations (2011):

Central government planning guidelines

Central government planning guidelines (previously called national political guidelines) are used to specify important planning topics. The guidelines shall clarify the goals and values upon which planning is to be based and shall make clear how different interests and considerations are to be taken into account and balanced. Central government planning guidelines can be delimited both thematically and geographically.

The national guidelines will primarily apply to the actual content of the planning, e.g. the fundamental goals and values and how different interests and considerations shall be taken into account and balanced. Central government planning guidelines shall form the basis for individual decisions pursuant to both the Planning and Building Act and other legislation and may constitute grounds for objections/appeals.

Applicable central government planning guidelines are:

• 2011 Statlige planretningslinjer for differensiert forvaltning av strandsonen langs sjøen (‘Central government planning guidelines for diversified management of the shore zone’ – in Norwegian only) The old one for the Oslofjord area only.
• 2009 Statlig planretningslinje for klima- og energiplanlegging i kommunene (‘Central government planning guidelines for municipal climate and energy planning’ – in Norwegian only)
• 1995 Rikspolitiske retningslinjer for å styrke barn og unges interesser i planleggingen (‘National political guidelines for promoting the interests of children and young people when planning’ – in Norwegian only)
• 1994 Rikspolitiske retningslinjer for vernede vassdrag (‘National political guidelines for protected river systems’ – in Norwegian only)
• 1993 Rikspolitiske retningslinjer for samordnet areal- og transportplanlegging (‘National political guidelines for coordinated land use and transport planning’) New guideline in 2014 also including housing.

 

Central government planning provisions

Central government planning provisions (previously called national political provisions) are legally binding provisions. Central government planning provisions may specify that special building or construction projects shall be initiated in limited geographical areas, or the country as a whole, without the ministry’s consent. The provisions take precedence over older land use plans and shall prevent such plans from being used as grounds for carrying out undesirable development projects.

• 2008 Rikspolitisk bestemmelse om kjøpesentre (‘National political provisions relating to shopping centres’ – in Norwegian only)

The goal of the national political provisions relating to shopping centres is to strengthen central urban and peri-urban areas and facilitate environmentally friendly transport alternatives, i.e. to avoid development that involves urban sprawl, increased dependency on cars and poorer accessibility for people who do not have a car or wish to use one. The overriding, long-term goal is to develop sustainable, robust urban and peri-urban structures that also contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Central government land use plans

A central government land use plan (the land use element of a municipal master plan or zoning plan) is used when it is required for the implementation of important national or regional development, construction or conservation measures, or when other social considerations so indicate. Central government land use plans are for use in exceptional circumstances and shall only be used when ordinary planning is not expected to yield results that the central government can accept. When considering such plans, the ministry takes over the municipal council’s authority to adopt plans.

Central government zoning plan for new national hospital at Gaustad in Oslo.

Central government zoning plan for new national hospital at Gaustad in Oslo.

Prohibition on building in the 100-metre belt along the shoreline

A general building prohibition applies in a 100-metre belt along the shoreline. The prohibition applies insofar as other building limits have been specified in the land use element of a municipal master plan or a zoning plan. Any prohibitions on building along rivers and lakes must be decided in each individual case through municipal land use plans.

diversified management on the shore zone

This map is showing the policy on diversified management on the shore zone. Red municipalities have the highest building pressure, orange intermediate and yellow least building pressure). In the red and orange municipalities there are stronger restrictions on building along the shoreline.

Overriding policies and guidelines for municipal master plans.

Overriding policies and guidelines for municipal master plans.  

Planning functions and planning authority

There is no planning directorate in Norway, which means that the Ministry itself carries out social planning that would otherwise be dealt with by a directorate. Norwegian Mapping Authority, which is a subordinate under the ministry, is also dealing with some tasks related to planning. Planning is done by many subordinate directorates under different ministries e.g. the Norwegian Public Road Administration (Statens vegvesen) under the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The Ministry of Climate and Environment’s subordinate directorates – the Norwegian Environment Agency and the Directorate for Cultural Heritage – carry out tasks relating to planning within their areas of responsibility.

At the regional level, the tasks are divided between the county authorities and the county governors.

County councils

The county authorities are managed by the county councils, which are elected by direct vote at the same time as the municipal councils. They are responsible for regional development and planning, transport, upper secondary schools, culture and the protection of cultural heritage sites and monuments.

The county authorities are responsible for providing planning guidance to the municipalities. All the county authorities have now set up ‘planning forums’, which are coordination bodies at the regional level in which municipal land use plans are discussed with central government and regional authorities.

The county authorities are responsible for a large share of the national trunk roads, which account for approximately 80 per cent of the road network. The county authorities have also been given a more important role in regional planning and in respect of the climate change challenge. They have also taken over functions relating to agriculture, water regions, outdoor pursuits and value creation.

County governors

The county governors, representing central government, are responsible for following up and coordinating the state’s different functions in the county. They also function as expert authorities in areas such as agriculture, environmental protection, schools etc. The county governors have responsibility for control and follow-up in relation to the municipalities, and they mediate in planning application matters where objections have been made. They are responsible for legal guidance to the municipalities in relation to plans. Consideration of appeals pursuant to the Planning and Building Act has been delegated by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation to the county governors. The county governors and county authorities cooperate extensively on planning matters that concern the municipalities’ follow-up of the Planning and Building Act, through regional planning forums laid down in the Planning and Building Act as well as in other ways.

Selected documents relevant for planning

White papers (St.meld.) are drawn up when the Government wishes to present matters to the Storting that do not require a decision. White papers tend to be in the form of a report to the Storting on the work carried out in a particular field and future policy. These documents, and the subsequent discussion of them in the Storting, often form the basis of a draft resolution or bill at a later stage.

The government or a ministry may constitute a committee and working groups who report on different aspects of society. A report can either be published as an Official Norwegian Report, or as a regular report.

Acts and regulations