4.1 Hierarchy of planning levels

The hierarchy of public activity planning and regional development planning is by and large based on a functional division of labor between the different levels. At any level types of plans physical planning shares more extensively similarities both in substantial contents and procedures. The practical implication is that there will be some kinds of overlapping between planning levels, at least when it comes to plans under local planning authority. However, some overlapping might occur in the division between planning at the central state tire as well as regional and local levels.

One particular aspect of central government planning is its advising character and the legal power within the municipal division to contradict these advices. Between the county master plan and the local plans the interdependencies are more depending on conflicting interest than on overlapping of contents and procedures. While the county master plan addresses policies and political and administrative requirements for the activities within the County Municipality, all the statutory physical plans at local level are legally binding on the physical environment, whether development or protection. Attempts to characterize the interdependencies between the different planning levels end as follows.

County planning

County planning comprises regional development planning as well as planning for public activities and land use or physical structures, all of which incorporated in the county master plan. The physical part of it is in main a policy approach that can vary in content and the use of instruments. Since there is no strict hierarchy of regulatory power dividing the two municipal levels, one important purpose of this physical planning is to create a source for the elaboration of potential conflicts against local land use planning. In case of conflicts the county plan can be used as documentation for raising objections.

Local planning

Planning at the local tier comprises three statutory levels of plans and in addition the permitting level. The dominant regulation method in this regard is rigid zoning based on statutory categories of land use:

The comprehensive municipal master plan is obligatory in municipal planning. Both the activity and the land use part of which are connected to municipal budgeting. Every forth year the planning authority should undertake a review in order to decide whether updating of the existing plan is needed or not. A municipal master plan can be adopted for the whole municipal area, for a part of it or it can be made valid for a particular theme of priority, for instance within public activity sectors.

The zoning plan is a pure physical plan for the development of land consists of two variants: a fully formulated one or a simplified one just limited to zoning provisions that determine use of land and density of development. The zoning plan is meant to be the obligatory instrument for permitting of major constructions. In reality, however, it can hardly be regarded as obligatory for permitting due to the flexible possibilities for formulating regulations connecting to other categories of plans and the legally binding character of these plans. There is no requirement for the territorial delineation of this plan category, except that in relation to scale, it should give valid information for permitting.

The building development plan is a three dimensional and accordingly more detailed variant of the zoning plan. There is no legal requirement for using this type of plan. It is up to the planning authority to decide whether it is needed or not. Still, the right to initiate preparation of building development plans is free and the obligations for the planning authority to handle it are the same as for zoning plans.

Building permitting is based on conformity to adopted legally binding plans. A building permit application in congruence with adopted detailed plans should in principle be endorsed for implementation. If a departure from the plan should be needed, requirements related to justifications and procedures are observed. Although the legal procedure is clear, certain aspects related to the binding character of the types of plans and the staging of the permitting procedure should be considered. Since all statutory local plans are legally binding, there are possibilities for obtaining building permits for all types of plans, depending on the formulation of the regulations. In practice it means that the constructions applied for and the character of the regulations more or less will decide the type of plan required. At least for larger constructions, permitting is divided into two stages. First a general endorsement is required. Judgments for the endorsement will be considering planning and other conditions in order to decide whether the existing overall requirements are met. Then, provided that the building and the construction work will meet all technical standards, the application for starting the construction work will be adopted.