1.1 History of the planning system

Since the 17th century building of the cities has been regulated mainly with two instruments: drawing up local detailed plans (idea dating back to Renaissance times) approved by the King, and framing of local building regulations, which later became building ordinances. The need for regulation started from fire safety, but was extended due to growing needs of defence, health and commonly organised tasks. Up to the beginning of 20th century land in the cities was mainly donated by the State, and totally covered by a local detailed plan. When cities continued to grow, it became necessary to extend the local detailed plans to cover also private land. It became necessary to have a legal basis to organise the legal relationships between the society and private landowners. The use of land and environment in urban areas was legally regulated in Finland for the first time by the Local Detailed Plan Act in 1931. The building guidance in the rural areas was not possible before the Rural Municipalitiesī Building Act in 1949. The main drawback in the Local Detailed Plan Act was that it did not offer efficient tools to prevent dense settlements being formed in unsuitable areas.

As a general law regulating the use of land and environment the Local Detailed Plan Act was followed by the Building Act in 1958, much based on the previous one, and prepared in societal situation of post-war industrialisation and early beginning of the rapid urbanisation of a then mainly agrarian country. The Building Act was still divided into urban and rural communities sections, as the rural communities were regulated in a lighter way. Strong new development on previously unbuilt land characterised the following decades. The planning organisations expanded rapidly both in size and the scope of professional backgrounds especially during the late 1960īs and 1970īs. Regional and local master planning regulations were reformed in 1968, and the shore plan provisions were introduced in the Act for the first time in 1969. National level land use planning was practiced to a certain extent, but despite some legislative proposals national level land use planning regulations were not included in the Act during the time of the Building Act. The statutory land use plan regulation during the Building Act concerned the dense settlements, but for controlling the dispersed settlements no efficient instruments existed.

The total reforming of the planning and building legislation started already in 1969, but it was only in the year 2000 the new Land Use and Building Act finally came into force. The main starting points in the latest legislation reform were as follows. Since the mid-1980īs new development had been planned mainly within existing urban structure. The protection of nature and built environment had become an integral part of spatial planning. Spatial planning had also become an important topic for public discussion and the media. The Building Act (and the previous ones) included an order that all the local land use plans that would have legal consequences should be submitted for ratification by upper tiers of state administration. This 250-year-old principle was left out from the new Act, and the rights of local authorities to decide on the control and guidance of their own spatial planning and development were further extended. By the same time, and in the spirit of Montesquieu, the treatment of appeals was changed from the administrative bodies (County Administrative Boards and the Ministry of Environment) to administrative courts. The new Act retained the traditional right of land owners to build isolated buildings without a land use plan in rural areas which do not seem to need planning.