1.3 Objectives and scope

Overall national and international socio-political goals in relation to land use planning have been more precisely formulated in the sections 1 and 5 of the Land Use and Building Act, expressing the general objectives of the Act (section 1) and of land use planning (section 5).
The general objective of the Act stresses firstly two substantial issues - favourable living environment and sustainable development - and secondly, a participatory and well-informed planning process. The section is formulated as follows:

"The objective of this Act is to ensure that the use of land and water areas and building activities on them create preconditions for a favourable living environment and promote ecologically, economically, socially and culturally sustainable development.

The Act also aims to ensure that everyone has the right to participate in the preparation process, and that planning is high quality and interactive, that expertise is comprehensive and that there is open provision of information on matters being processed."

This general objective has been written in a target-oriented form, not as a binding legal norm. It is meant that other provisions and their implementation should promote the realisation of this general objective. Therefore, in a legal argumentation, it is not very effective to invoke directly the general objective. But it can be used as a backing, second-level legal authority.

The provision concerning objectives for land use planning (section 5) complements and specifies the general objective of the Act. It brings out the main issues aimed to be promoted by statutory land use planning. These are mainly substantial issues (11 different themes are mentioned), but coupled with two procedural aspects, namely participatory planning and sufficient impact assessment:

"The objective in land use planning is to promote the following through interactive planning and sufficient assessment of impact:

  1. a safe, healthy, pleasant, socially functional living and working environment which provides for the needs of various population groups, such as children, the elderly and the handicapped;
  2. economical urban structure and land use;
  3. protection of the beauty of the built environment and of cultural values;
  4. biological diversity and other natural values;
  5. environmental protection and prevention of environmental hazards;
  6. provident use of natural resources;
  7. functionality of communities and good building;
  8. economical urban development;
  9. favourable business conditions;
  10. availability of services;
  11. an appropriate traffic system and, especially, public transport and non-motorized traffic."

These objectives for land use planning are common to all types of statutory land use plans. They have been written - like the general objective of the Act - in a target-oriented form, which means that contrariness to them cannot be used effectively as a ground for appealing.

The Act also regulates the required content of a plan separately for each type of statutory land use plan. The common objectives for land use planning are partly specified in these provisions for required content of each type of plan. But where the common objectives have been written in a target-oriented form, the required content provisions are mostly about the minimum level planning should exceed. Therefore the required content provisions are one of the major tools available for appealing. They are described more in detail later when discussing the statutory type of plans in overall.

Besides the actual Land Use and Building Act, the other important document concerning the general objectives of spatial planning is the National Land Use Guidelines (later NLG). In the Finnish statutory land use planning system, this is the one of the four main instruments of the system, and the only one containing guidance only in written form. In the hierarchical tree of objectives, the NLG is situated between the (general) objectives for land use planning and the type of plan -specified required contents of a plan (see figure 1.)

Figure 1. Hierarchical tree of objectives related to statutory land use planning. (Source: Ekroos & Majamaa 1999, 55)

The national land use guidelines are set by the Finnish Council of State. Their primary aim is to ensure that nationally significant issues are taken into account in regional and local land use planning and in the activities of government authorities. The guidelines outline land use in Finland far into the future. The guidelines express the view of the Council of State on nationally significant land use issues, but they do not commit themselves on the actual decisions on these matters. According to the spirit of the Act, the guidelines are to be concretised and single matters decided in regional planning, planning at the local level, and in the activities of government authorities, all of which should promote the implementation of these guidelines.

The guidelines concern only the issues that can be affected by the guiding system formulated by the Land Use and Building Act, i.e. issues concerning planning, building and use of land. The guidelines do not concern issues of regional development, energy or transport policies, neither the economic decisions related to them. However, the guidelines are aimed to make spatial reservations for some nationally significant projects, but not to commit on the realisation of the projects in any other sense. Related to these projects it is meant that the guidelines are updated at least once in five years.

The guidelines are also linked with international considerations. They particularly aim at implementing, in Finland, international conventions protecting cultural environments and biological diversity and combating the climate change. They also implement the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP).

The national land use guidelines is a new instrument introduced in the new Land Use and Building Act in the year 2000. The first national land use guidelines were set on 30th November, 2000. The new Act substantially increased the power of the local authorities in land use planning, because plans no longer had to be submitted to a higher authority for approval. As there was no subsequent scrutiny after the plans had been passed, the importance of prior guidelines and advisory services was enhanced.

The national land use guidelines have been grouped according to subject as follows: 1) a well-functioning regional structure, 2) a more coherent urban structure and a quality of the living environment, 3) the cultural and natural heritage, recreation uses and natural resources, 4) well-functioning communication networks and energy supply, 5) special issues of the Helsinki region and 6) areal entities of outstanding interest as natural and cultural sites.