IN-PLAN / Spatial planning

Integrated Energy, Climate and Spatial planning to enable local and regional authorities to effectively implement their plan. #LifeINPLAN

Spatial planning

Spatial planning refers to the methods used mostly by the public sector to influence the future distribution of people and activities in spaces of various scales. Local and regional governments use spatial planning to outline their development pathways, defining and setting restrictions for land use and development.

Spatial planning gives geographical expression to the economic, social, cultural and ecological policies of society.

Torremolinos Charter – The paper issued by the 6th Conference of the Council of Europe of Ministers responsible for spatial planning (CEMAT)

Studies have shown that spatial planning lacks integration with education, energy, health, retail, and waste policies, all of which are crucial for sustainable and resilient urban development. In particular, the lack of communication and convergence across sectoral policies weakens the effectiveness of spatial planning in steering EU-funded investments.

IN-PLAN’s objective is to change this and to empower local and regional authorities to use spatial plans to enact their energy and climate policies. This will result in a higher rate of implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, including energy efficiency measures. To start, the project focuses on five countries: Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, and Romania. Here below are their characteristics:

Croatia is a centralised country in which plans are developed at the national level, and then locally implemented. Municipalities and cities have the jurisdiction to determine their budgets and develop their local development plans, but often lack the jurisdiction and capacity to implement them. Spatial planning is handled at the county, local, and sub-local levels and is restricted mostly to urban planning and zoning. Energy and climate are only considered in terms of the positioning of infrastructure and the definition of zone usage. Large cities have internal departments for spatial planning, while other public authorities use external spatial planners.

Ireland has defined a National Planning Framework Project (Ireland 2040), a set of national strategic objectives and actions against which regional and local authorities will align their plans. Each local authority must prepare a County Development Plan every 5 years. It is the local authority’s main policy document in relation to planning. The plan consists of a written statement which sets out the policies and maps for the county, which show zonings for different types of development. These plans must align their objectives with relevant National Policy, including the Climate Action Plan and Project Ireland 2040.

Italy has three main hierarchical planning levels: the regional (spatial plans), the provincial (supra-communal plans), and the municipal (general urban development plans and more detailed plans of specific limited urban areas). Each region develops several sectoral plans and regulations in the fields of spatial and urban planning to regulate different aspects and provide guidelines to subordinate institutions. Provinces and municipalities then develop new planning regulations or adapt existing ones accordingly.

Sweden offers great autonomy to municipalities for land use planning and requires them to have Energy Plans concerning the distribution and supply of energy in their territories. However, the majority does not have operational control over these aspects of the energy system any longer and have, instead, initiated proactive, strategic energy and climate planning. The Swedish spatial planning system consists of regional, comprehensive, area regulations and detailed development plans, however only the area regulations and the detailed development plan are legally binding documents.

Romania is a centralised country where policies and strategic decisions are taken at the national level and the local/regional administrations have limited regulatory capacity regarding energy and climate policies. The Strategy for the Territorial Development of Romania adopted by the Romanian government in 2016 provides an integrated strategic planning framework to guide the development processes of the national territory up to 2035.

Co-funded by the European Union under project ID 101076428.


Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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