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Regional Land Use Planning

Ote kaavakartasta

The Regional Land Use Plan

Finland’s land use planning system, as defined in the Land Use and Building Act, gives municipalities a high degree of autonomy in local land use planning. Municipalities produce local detailed plans to guide construction and other land use changes in areas where land is used intensively or in sensitive areas. These detailed plans are guided by local master plans, which may be produced by individual municipalities, or by groups of municipalities in the form of a joint master plan.

Municipal planning is guided by national land use guidelines issued by the national government, and by regional land use plans. Regional land use plans are general plans that set out medium-term and long-term objectives for regional land use patterns concerning issues that affect land use planning in many municipalities. Regional land use plans are drafted and approved by the regional councils. Land use designations and planning reservations shown on the maps in the comprehensive regional land use plans provide a concrete expression of the regional development strategies also drawn up by the regional councils. These plans ensure that local developments planned at municipal level are in accordance with these strategies. Regional land use plans cover developments and issues that affect many municipalities, where effective planning solutions cannot be developed at the local level alone.

Regional land use plans define a general framework for the more detailed local plans drawn up by the municipalities. Regional land use plans are legally binding with regard to municipal planning and the activities of other officials, but they nevertheless leave plenty of scope for municipalities to resolve local land use and development issues. Regional land use plans can also directly control construction and other land uses through conditional building restrictions and protection orders.

Conditional building restrictions define areas where building permits may not be granted for developments that would hinder the implementation of the regional land use plan. Reasonable compensation is paid where the refusal of planning permission results in substantial losses for landowners.

Protection orders can be designated in regional land use plans to limit construction and other land use changes that would endanger valuable natural or cultural features or landscapes. Protection orders can be defined to prevent land use changes such as forestation and drainage schemes.

The regional councils independently decide on planning solutions within the general framework for their content and scope set out in the Land Use and Building Act. The regional councils must also ensure that their plans promote the implementation of the national land use guidelines set by the national government. After regional approval, the regional land use plans are ratificated by the Ministry of the Environment or in some cases by the national government. Appeals concerning the legality of regional land use plans may be submitted to the Supreme Administrative Court after ratification.

Various reports and surveys are compiled before regional land use plans are drawn up, in order to ensure that the land use patterns and legal restrictions defined within the plans are sustainable and fair. The impacts of the implementation of regional land use plans are also assessed during the drafting of the plans and before they are approved. Such impact analyses are designed to support planning processes and to facilitate choices between alternative planning options, as well as to help prevent or reduce any undesirable impacts. Draft planning proposals are exhibited in public places to allow all citizens and interest groups to examine them and officially submit any objections.

Regional land use plans may be drafted in three forms:
• comprehensive regional land use plans covering all major planning issues in the whole region,
•  phased regional land use plans covering certain specific planning issues during each planning phase and
•  sub-regional land use plans covering smaller sub-regions or coherent areas such as river systems.

The option of producing phased or sub-regional land use plans gives the regional planning authorities flexibility where changing conditions make the drafting of such plans desirable, or where resources are limited. In such cases the authorities must nevertheless also strive to keep the comprehensive land use plan for the whole region up to date.

There are two regional land use plans in Kainuu that are in force at the moment:

• The comprehensive regional land use plan until 2020, accepted regionally in 2007 and ratificated by the Finnish Government in 2009.
The maps related to the Kainuu regional land use plan (pdf, in Finnish)
• The 1st phased regional land use plan concentrating on the use of Vuosanka military training area and the surrounding areas, accepted regionally in 2012 and ratificated by the Ministry of the Environment in 2013 (an appeal has been left to the Supreme Administrative Court concerning the ratification).
The map related to the 1st phased regional land use plan Kainuu (pdf, in Finnish)
There are two phased regional land use plans pending in Kainuu, that the Assembly of the Regional Council (political body) made a decision to draw up at the meeting of March 25th 2013.
• The phased regional land use plan covering commercial units has been drafted due to changes in the Land Use and Building Act (amendment of 319/2011) and will specify the location as well as the lower and upper limits for regionally significant commercial units in Kainuu. The document was accepted by the Assembly of the Regional Council on December 1st 2014 and the ratification process has been started by the Ministry of the Environment.
• The phased regional land use plan covering wind energy will indicate, according to the national land use guidelines, the areas that are most suitable for exploiting wind energy in Kainuu.

More Information:

Land Use and Building Act  (FINLEX, the database of translations of Finnish acts and decrees)
Mr. Hannu Heikkinen, Planning Director, Regional Council of Kainuu