2.1 Legal framework of planning

Finland belongs to the Scandinavian "legal and administrative family" (Newman & Thornley 1996, 29), also in the sense that the land use planning system is a regulatory one, based on legally binding zoning regulations. During the development of its legal system in the 17th and 18th centuries Finland was part of Sweden, and even under the Russian control in the 19th century Swedish laws remained in force; this historical legacy is strong and has a continuing influence. As in the other Scandinavian countries, local self-governance is seen as one of the cornerstones in the constitution, and this is reflected clearly also in the land use planning system according to the new Land Use and Building Act (since 2000).

The legal core that defines the planning system in Finland is the Land Use and Building Act. It covers also the general building regulation. As the legislation on the environment is scattered over several special, sector-oriented acts, Land Use and Building Act is a general act of planning the use of environment, but it does not cover all the uses of environment.

As statutory land use planning is, according to its nature, integrative planning, in which areas are indicated for different purposes, in includes indications to purposes which are either polluting the environment or very sensitive to environmental pollution, and are thus controlled by special legislation. When applying the Land Use and Building Act, these dividing lines between the different legislations have to be examined. The main special legislation Acts concerning the use of environment are as follows:
nature and landscape protection: Nature Conservation Act (1996)
protection of built environment: Act on the Protection of Buildings (1985), Antiquities Act (1963)
natural resource economical regulation: Land Extraction Act (1981)
prevention of environmental pollution: Environmental Protection Act (2000), Water Act (1961), Environmental Impact Assessment Act (1994), Waste Act (1993), Health Protection Act (1994), Adjoining Properties Act (1920)
other legislation concerning land use: Highways Act (2005), Private Roads Act (1962), Electricity Market Act (1995), Communications Market Act (2003)

The variety of special Acts regulating the use of environment have made the integrative task of land use planning more difficult. The aims and content of the other Acts are varying considerably, and the integration in land use planning has become more heterogeneous and complex. The discretion of interests cannot be made on common grounds, when the grounds of discretionary power are different. Some acts do not contain discretion of interests at all. This aspect is reflected later in this text in the section concerning current and upcoming changes.

The general provision of the Land Use and Building Act states that land use objectives and plans in accordance with the Act must be taken into account, as separately prescribed, when planning and deciding on the use of the environment on the basis of other legislation. In other words, the binding character requires a special provision, either in the Land Use and Building Act or in the special legislation in question. These kind of provisions are e.g. in the Water Act (2:4) concerning building in the water system, in the Chemicals Act (31) concerning discretion of permits, in the Highways Act (3,13) concerning highway planning and construction, in the Electricity Market Act (20) concerning the grounds for consent of the local authority, and in the Communications Market Act (101) concerning installation of a telecommunications cable.