1.2 Basic principles

The municipalities carry the main responsibility for land-use planning in Sweden. A municipal planning monopoly exists. This means that no change to the use of land can take place unless it is based on a municipal plan. Individual land-owners cannot build on their land if the building development is not in agreement with the municipal plans. With few exceptions the state cannot decide on the change of use of land if the decision would go against municipal plans. With only few exceptions, the municipalities have the right of veto in planning matters.

All municipalities must have a current comprehensive plan that covers the entire municipality. The Municipal comprehensive plan is not legally binding but is meant to form the basis of decisions on the use of land and water areas. The comprehensive plan must be considered by the municipal council at least once during each term of office (4 years). The Detailed development plan is the legally binding instrument. It is the most important instrument for implementing the intentions of the comprehensive plan. It divides obligations and rights between the municipality and the land owners. It provides a strong protection of the rights accorded by the plans to land owners during an implementation period that can vary between 5 and 15 years. Special area regulations are more simple planning instruments that are also binding and are primarily used outside built-up areas to ensure agreement with the comprehensive plan in certain respects.

For the planning of matters concerning several municipalities the legislation appropriates the instrument of Regional plan. The municipalities concerned can make a joint demand to the Government that a regional planning body should be appointed. From then, planning in a municipality that is a member of the regional planning body must agree with the regional planning pursued by the that body. Currently, regional planning only exists in the Stockholm and Göteborg areas. Environmental impact assessments (EIA) also constitute an important instrument in municipal planning. They are compulsory in several contexts and also have to form part of the basis for the detailed development plans.