1.1 History of the spatial planning system
The attempts to normalize processes of spatial planning have a long tradition in Poland. They have been made directly after Poland regained its independence in 1918. Those attempts resulted in a modern, as for those times, regulation, i.e. an order of the President of the Republic of Poland issued on the 16th of February 1928 on Building Code and Housing Estate Development. In practice spatial planning in the interwar Poland (so called II Republic) was very successful, both locally (e.g. social housing estates, building of a harbour town of Gdynia from scratch, public facilities), regionally (e.g. plan on ‘‘functional Warsaw'') and nationally (e.g. Central Industrial District). Polish architects and town planners were actively involved in the works of CIAM, which led to formulation of the Charter of Athens.
After World War II, the regulation from 1928 was replaced by a Decree on the Planned Spatial Management of the Country. That decree and the following ones on the National Investment Plan from 1946 as well as the one on the Planned National Economy from 1947 established general rules of the so-called ‘‘system of a socialistic planned economy'' introduced in Poland after World War II. Types of plans, the range of their content in the most general form, hierarchy and a mutual relation of plans, as well as procedural forms of their making and organization of planning were defined. A very significant fact for the contemporarily established system of the Polish People's Republic (PRL) was taking over basic means of production by the state, and in consequence - accepting centrally controlled economic development.
In the conceptual phase the system of planned economy was notably supported by some groups of architects and town planners. Already before World War II those groups claimed that frameworks of activities ensuring rational development of the country, its regions and individual settlement units can be created only through planned economy.
In practice it soon turned out that legal norms were too rigid to regulate, with advance planning, turbulently and often forcefully introduced the so-called "socialistic industrialization". It was based on the guidelines from the Soviet Union. The decrees became uncomfortable tools in the execution of tasks issued by the governing communist party. Therefore they were rescinded or disobeyed. In this way a directive system of management was becoming consolidated. And that had little to do with the declared planning.
In that situation economic planning was short-term. It was based on a five-year plan, but in fact a yearly plan based on the state budget passed by the Sejm (Polish Parliament) was causative. Social planning turned out to be an illusion. However, spatial planning was being developed separately from the economic condition of the country. It was also susceptible to non-planning pressure and directives of different governing civil and political bodies.
During almost a fifty-year long period of forming the system of spatial planning in the PRL a method of preparing planning documents was created. It was obviously adjusted to the present situation. At that time a considerable group of planners received their education, which resulted in a series of valuable planning studies registering the condition of country development and analysing its risks and developmental possibilities. In the 60s certain methods and planning concepts were even carefully examined in many countries and considered progressive. However, the system weakness of spatial planning was lack of balance between the objective and subjective layer of a plan. Spatial management plan did not require wide social acceptance. It was enough that it was accepted by an executive and political authority. Most often plans were seen by the society as an additional instrument of repression, especially by those social groups who as a result of the planning decisions were dispossessed of their land estates. Plans were also perceived as a special form of communistic propaganda showing a glowing vision of the future of the system, the so-called ‘'social justice''.
Despite the political assumption of taking over all the production means by the state, and significant limitation of citizens' imperious rights, quite a high percentage of agricultural (about 70%) and building land remained in private hands in the PRL. People could also own an apartment; run a non-agricultural business activity, even though with big limitations.
Generally spatially extensive development of cities/towns, especially in the nationalized sector, required taking over vast terrain from private holders. Local spatial management plans formed a legal basis for dispossessions. In that aspect of theirs, plans were mainly used as an instrument of limiting private sector of economy. Owners of whatever real estate defended it with all legal and non-legal methods. Also various methods of private investment, out of planning assumptions and logics of spatial planning, were practised.
Abolishing ground rent, limiting functioning of real estate market and removal of private ownership during the PRL era caused deformation of spatial management structure, devastation of visual landscape and formation of characteristic "urban fallows'', i.e. un-built areas in attractive places. However, simultaneously the PRL has left millions of built flats, by principle modern housing estates and public facilities (schools, hospitals, offices, etc.)
Political transformations, which took place in Poland after 1989, enforced the revision of the so far system of spatial planning. After numerous discussions and presentations of the project of a new act of law correcting that system, the Sejm passed The Act on Spatial Management in 1994, which replaced The Act on Spatial Planning from 1984. The change in the name of the act of law was not without any significance. It meant separating form the principle of the previous system, i.e. ‘‘planned economy''.
A very important legal document, prior to the Act on Spatial Management, was the Act on Territorial Self-Government from 1990. Due to that act of law, self-governmental communities, which acquired legal entity and were endowed with a wide spectrum of tasks, got reactivated. The scope of their tasks covers all the public affairs of a local importance, which have not been legally reserved to other subjects. The first step to create self-governments in the Republic of Poland was recreating a communal self-government in 1990. Voivodship and district self-governments were established later, by operation of law from 1998, and organised on account of an administrative reform of the country, which was introduced in 1999.
The Act on Spatial Management from 1994 abolished a centralized and hierarchical system of spatial planning and vested communes with powers decisive, to a large extent, for the development of the whole country. The principle of compulsory and universal nature of making local spatial management plans has been abandoned.
While the previous act of law emphasizes that the ‘‘aim of spatial planning is to shape spatial management of the country, regions, cities/towns and villages in a complex way...'', the act of law from 1994 abandons defining spatial planning, but highlights that the enacted act defines „ the scope and way of procedure in cases concerning the intended use of terrain for specific purposes and settling the ways of development ...". The above mentioned legal provisions present a basic system change residing in abandoning creative and complex planning supported by legal acts and aiming at regulative planning, which would consider title to property, among other things.