2.1 Legal framework of planning

The Norwegian system for land use planning is in principle a regulatory one, based on legally binding zoning regulations. Development control is an inseparable part of this system. Formally, a single building permission, although considered in two steps for projects of some extents, is required for controlling development. In practice, however, this single permission principle has to be considered in relation to the free right to initiate detailed development plans and the two-step handling of building permit applications.

The legal core of the planning system is the Planning and Building Act. In additions to the stated purposes regarding the environment, it is basically a law structuring the statutory requirements for development and protection processes. The emphasis on the environment needs to be viewed in relation to the Norwegian environmental legislation in general. Since there is no overall law regulating environmental concerns within different sectors, except for a particular clause of the Constitution, legislation on the environment is scattered over several sectoral laws. The most important ones in planning are the the Pollution Act, the Nature Conservation Act and the Cultural Heritage Act, all of which under the authority of Ministry of Environment. These sectoral laws, like the Nature Conservation Act and the Cultural Heritage Act, give possibilities for using specific planning instruments. Some of these instruments could be considered as certain types of plans connected to regulatory frameworks tailored for areas under different status of protection, like the "landscape protection area" or the "national parks" according to the Nature Conservation Act. In addition the Agriculture Act represents a particular strong factor when it comes to planning in rural areas and protection of cultivated and arable land. In forest areas planning and nature conservation will have to strike a balance towards forestry under legal rule of the forest production acts. Planning instruments embedded in all these laws are under the rule of state government, of which the County Governor is the main operative entity.

Furthermore, planning within state sectors takes place within sectoral bodies in pursuance with the respective sectoral laws. The most important sectoral legislation in relation to planning is under the Ministry of Transportation. Separate authorities are responsible for planning related to roads, rails, and aviation. Legislation for harbors planning is under Ministry of Fisheries and Costal Management. Planning for the purpose of implementing future projects within these sectors, takes place according to the procedures of relevant statutory plans in the Planning and Building Act. It means that the statutory plans applicable at county and local levels can be used in this sectoral planning, as the partial land use parts of the respective county and municipal master plans, the zoning plan, etc. The Water Management Act under the Ministry of Oil and Energy constitute another planning sector, particular important for planning and the environment in rural areas. So far, this law prescribes exclusive tools for this kind of planning.

The Municipal Act under the authority of Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development plays a distinctive role in planning. Although not formally connected to the land use and structural planning legislation, this law is strongly affecting the municipalities as planning authorities, especially when it comes to formulation of local development policies, budgeting and the use of financial means for the realization of plans.