Managing legal actions of spatial planning
The Estonian Planning Act came into force in 01.06.2015. The Act can be found in through the link: Planning Act–Riigi Teataja. The planning procedures concerning the plans initiated prior to that will be concluded in accordance with the previous law. However, all the new plans will be created in accordance with the new Act. It has been an intensive adaptation and learning process for both national and local governments. The last decades have brought many changes. There are notable developments for example in our economy, technology, communication, and lifestyle. There are changes also in our legal framework: some regulations have been initiated by EU, some by national government. Climate change, energy crisis, green transition, and adapting to population shrinkage are additional topics that have seen significant changes in the past years. Furthermore, Estonia’s national security systems have become a crucial topic to take into consideration in recent times. Currently, the Department of Spatial Planning of the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture is preparing a drafting proposal for the Planning Act (PlanS). More information can be found on the Estonian website: Planeerimisseaduse väljatöötamiskavatsus (VTK) – Planeerimine.ee.
Local Governments are responsible for the spatial planning on the local level. The Local Government Organisation Act determines the functions, responsibility and organisation of local government and the relations between local and state bodies. The Territory of Estonia Administrative Division Act provides the administrative division of the territory of Estonia, the alteration of administrative-territorial organisation and the basis and procedure for the alteration of boundaries and changes to the names of administrative units. The Local Government Council Election Act determines the detailed basis for the election of local government councils. The Local Government Financial Management Act provides the principles of preparation, adoption, implementation and reporting of local government budgets, measures for ensuring financial discipline and principles for eliminating the risk of difficult financial situations. Local governments can go to court for the protection of their rights, including to the Supreme Court for the purposes of a constitutional review. For more information, visit the Ministry of Finance document about local governments in Estonia (https://www.fin.ee/en/media/2260/download).
Planning act “Ch.2 Principles of planning”
The principles of planning are important, because through their implementation, prerequisites are created for the high-quality procedure and content of the plans. The principles given below can also be found in Chapter 2 of the official website of the Estonian Planning Act.
§ 8. Principle of improving the living environment
A spatial plan must, while preserving existing values, establish the preconditions for the existence and preservation of a user-friendly and safe living environment and of a spatial fabric that reflects the values of the community, and for the development of aesthetic surroundings.
§ 9. Principle of inviting the public to participate and of informing the public
- Spatial planning proceedings are open to the public. The authority that organises spatial planning work must inform the public of the proceedings in understandable terms, provide sufficient invitation to the public to participate in the proceedings and, in the course of creation of the spatial plan, arrange public displays and public discussions of the plan in order to introduce the plan to the public.
- Everyone has a right to participate in spatial planning proceedings and, during those proceedings, express their opinion regarding the spatial plan that is being considered.
- When holding public discussions at locations prescribed by this Act, the authority arranging creation of the spatial plan may allow participation in such discussions also by electronic means, by real-time two-way communication link or a similar electronic method that permits a participant of the discussion to follow the discussion and to express their opinion.
- Where – due to restrictions established concerning the holding of public meetings and public events – it is not possible to hold public discussions at locations prescribed by this Act, such discussions may be held exclusively by electronic means, real-time two-way communication links or similar electronic methods that permit participants of the discussion to follow the discussion and to express their opinion. Holding a public discussion by the aforementioned methods is permitted only if all parties who have expressed a desire to participate in the discussion have consented to this.
- Everyone has a right to receive, free of charge, relevant information regarding spatial planning proceedings and the spatial plan.
§ 10. Principle of balancing and integrating interests
- The authority that organises spatial planning work must balance different interests, including public interests and values, consider them in the light of the principles of spatial planning and the goals of the spatial plan, and integrate them in the planning solution.
- A spatial plan expressing national interests must be guided by the national interests, taking into account local needs and interests where this is possible.
- A spatial plan expressing local interests must be guided by the local interests and must be in conformity with spatial plans expressing national interests and, where necessary, with other strategic documents expressing spatial aspects.
§ 11. Principle of sufficiency of information
- The authority that organises spatial planning work must, when making planning arrangements, take into account the relevant strategies, risk analyses, existing spatial plans that are in effect, development plans and other documents that have an impact on spatial development, as well as any other relevant information.
- The authority that organises spatial planning work has a right to receive, free of charge, information required for the creation of spatial plans. The authority must ensure the preservation and availability of any information gathered during planning proceedings.
- Endorsements and opinions are provided free of charge, unless otherwise provided by law.
§ 12. Principle of expedient, reasonable and sustainable land use
- When creating spatial plans, appropriate use of previously used areas or of insufficiently used areas must be promoted where possible.
- When planning human settlements, the built environment and green areas must receive balanced consideration, taking into account circumstances dictated by the existing environment and the specific location.
- When creating spatial plans, where possible, preference must be given to solutions that are environmentally sound and ensure good energy performance, and the use of renewable energy must be facilitated.