1.8 Current and upcoming changes

Both the legal content of the planning system and the organizational structure of the planning authorities, particularly the territorial division, are under consideration within the central government. To some extents, planning laws are more or less under continuous changes, partially engendered by domestic needs, partially undertaken in order to harmonize the national system to transnational rules and regulations. However, most of these changes have not been affecting the basic principles of physical planning according to the Planning and Building Act, and the public activity planning. But the content and character of these kinds of planning are obviously colored by changes in State polices, particularly when it comes to economy and financing within sectors. In regional development planning quite extensive changes have taken place as a consequence of changing regional policies.

During the latest years two expert committees appointed by the Government have launched reports for the revisions of the respective planning and building parts of the Planning and Building Act. Decisions for preparation of the corresponding propositions from the two ministries in charge are already taken. Generally, it is difficult to point at particular aspects that will be changed during this coming revision. It depends particularly on the constellations between the different party groups in the Parliament during the final stage of law making. Yet, according to the expert committees, the organization of regional planning, categories of planning instruments, mechanisms for public participation and financing of urban development costs together with certain visions for simplifying of public decision making procedures seem to cover most of the aspects for future discussions on legal revisions.

Regarding the organizational structure the situation is even more unclear or intermediary. Because the authority of planning and building in the Government is shared between two ministries, there has been a more or less continuous flow of voices for reserving this authority to a single ministry over the last twenty years. Besides, one particular expert committee has elaborated challenges connected to the division of labor between the different tiers of government and concluded in a report some years ago (2000).

All these issues concerning the organizational structure of planning authorities are still under discussion. In addition to the organization at central government tier, possible conclusions for the municipal division and the division of planning authority and mandates between the central and regional levels are still kept open. For the local tier a political majority in the existing Parliament (2007) is definitely supporting the idea either of bigger municipalities or extended voluntary cooperation across municipal borders within prioritized sectors. But the political parties are of different opinions whether the central government should enforce the merging of municipalities or it should just take place voluntarily. Political attitudes to the issues of regional divisions, and eventually the responsibilities of the county level in service provision and planning, are even more unclear.