Spatial planning

Spatial planning refers to the methods used by the public sector to influence the distribution of people and activities in spaces of various scales. Spatial planning includes all levels of land use planning including urban planning, regional planning, national spatial plans, and in the European Union international levels.

There are numerous definitions of spatial planning. One of the earliest definitions comes from the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter (often called the 'Torremolinos Charter'), adopted in 1983 by the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT):

"Regional/spatial planning gives geographical expression to the economic, social, cultural and ecological policies of society. It is at the same time a scientific discipline, an administrative technique and a policy developed as an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach directed towards a balanced regional development and the physical organisation of space according to an overall strategy."

Numerous planning systems exist around the world. Especially in Northwestern Europe spatial planning has evolved greatly since the late 1950s. In the country of the Netherlands spatial planning has carved out its own niche. Dutch spatial planning, noted for its "manicured planning system", can be seen as one of the most advanced forms of spatial planning in the world.
European Spatial Planning



In 1999, a document called the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) was signed by the ministers responsible for regional planning in the EU member states. Although the ESDP has no binding status, and the European Union has no formal authority for spatial planning, the ESDP has influenced spatial planning policy in European regions and member states, and placed the coordination of EU sectoral policies on the political agenda.

At the European level, the term territorial cohesion is becoming more widely used and is for example mentioned in the draft EU Treaty (Constitution) as a shared competency of the European Union; it is also included in the Reform Treaty. The term was defined in a "scoping document" in Rotterdam in late 2004 and is being elaborated further using empirical data from the ESPON programme in a document entitled The Territorial State and Perspectives of the European Union. At the minister's conference in May 2007 in Leipzig, a political document called the "Territorial Agenda" was signed to continue the process begun in Rotterdam.

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