Government agencies’ objections to Municipal Land-Use plans


  • Knut Boge Norwegian University of Life Sciences


Legislation, Land-use planning, Objections, Coordination, Multi-level governance




Similarly, as in most other countries, the Norwegian land-use planning system has its peculiarities. In the Middle Ages, Norway had a kind of building and land-use legislation governing the width of city streets and alleys to mitigate consequences of fires in closely located wooden buildings. During the first half of the 19th century Norwegian legislators passed particular building acts for Christiania (Oslo), Bergen and Trondheim respectively, and in the second half of the 19th century they also passed building acts for the new cities that evolved near railroad stations. In 1837 Norwegian legislators passed laws about local government. One law for cities and urban municipalities, which since the Middle Ages had had a kind of local government, and one law for rural municipalities. Both the municipalities and legislators representing rural constituencies soon became very powerful political players. The planning and building legislation was characterized by shifting power relations and path dependence (Pierson, 2004). In 1965 Norway got a national Building Act governing building matters and land-use planning in urban and even rural municipalities. The 1965 act became a turning point. First each county had to develop a County Plan, where areas could be locked up for up to 10 years, to prevent other land-uses in the municipalities than laid out in the County Plan. The County Plan had to be ratified by the Ministry of Local Government. Second, the 1965 Building Act also facilitated Regional Plans, to coordinate development of important infrastructures or land-uses in two or more municipalities. Third, each municipality had to develop a General Plan to govern the land-use. This General Plan had to be ratified by the Ministry of Local Government. Even the General Plan could lock up areas for up to 10 years. Thus, the 1965 Building Act led to substantially increased demand for planners and planning educations.

The next big thing in Norwegian land-use planning was the 1985 Planning and Building Act (PBA) that governed land-use planning on national, county and municipal level. The popularly elected county and municipal councils respectively governs the counties and municipalities’ land-use planning. Both the counties and municipalities had to cooperate and coordinate their land-use plans with other public administrations. The 1985 PBA authorized development of inter-municipal land-use plans. It also permitted private initiation and preparation of detailed zoning plans (Fredricsson and Smas, 2013). The County Land-Use Plans had to be approved by the Government. The Municipal Council was authorized to approve the Municipal Land-Use Plan. However, the county municipality, other municipalities or government agencies affected by a Municipal Land-Use Plan could raise objections. In case of such objections, the Municipal Land-Use Plan had to be approved by the Ministry of the Environment which then governed the land-use planning. Thus, 1985 PBA was almost a textbook example of multilevel governance. Most of the principles instituted by the 1985 PBA were furthered by the 2008 PBA.

This paper investigates government agencies’ objections to Municipal Land-Use plans. This topic is highly relevant, because many government agencies have divergent interests that establish hold-up situations that block local land-use or block or delay government level infrastructure projects. Statutory land-use planning is based on public authority with detailed rules for securing democratic legitimacy for the decisions made (Mäntysalo et al., 2011). According to Campbell’s (1996; 2016) Planner’s Triangle, planners face dilemmas, because they must balance economic development vs. equity and social justice (the property conflict), and economic development vs. environmental protection (the resource conflict). Thus, in some instances coordination and alignment of the government agencies’ interests may be far more complicated than aligning the interests of several municipalities. 


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