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Planning System in Germany

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A Brief Overview of the Planning System in Germany

The federalist principle of the German state is divided between the Federation and the federal states. The federal states have their own state authority's laws. This fact characterizes Germany as a decentralized state.

The federalist structure contains three central levels which are the Federation, the federal states and the municipalities. They each have their own regulations but they are closely linked.

At the federal level is the Ministry for Transport, Building and Housing, responsible for spatial planning. At present the predominant departmental assignment model is an independent ministry for planning and environment. Raumordnung is a term provides a classic model of the combined planning of land uses, preservation of heritage.

The planning law in the Federal Republic of Germany consists of the Law of Raumordnung and of the Public Building Law. The outstanding feature of the decentralised German planning system is the fact that the Federation itself has no comprehensive and legal binding spatial planning instrument. So Germany has no national plan at its disposal, but in its place the established by the Federation principles of the Raumordnung which are the fundamental guidelines for the whole spatial planning and spatial policy in Germany.

Legal planning instruments are reserved for the federal states. Only the federal states are obliged to draw up comprehensive plans and to determine objectives of the Raumordnung which are binding for all subordinate planning authorities (municipalities and sectoral planning authorities).

On the level of the Raumordnung und Landesplanung there is no public participation up to now. The procedure for giving the Raumordnungsplaene a binding character is legally the most important act, and it serves to make the objectives of the Raumordnung binding for public planning authorities. This is achieved by means of

• passing of laws
• decisions taken by the governments of the federal states
• official approval/declaration of binding effects/approval by the planning authorities of the federal states.

The comprehensive plans of the federal states (Raumordnungsplaene) and their regions (Regionalplaene) are legally binding for all authorities of the Federation, the federal states and the municipalities. This refers to the real contents of these plans, the objectives of the Raumordnung, which have to be observed by public planning authorities in all spatially significant planning procedures and measures.

As a general rule of the German planning law, the undeveloped outlying areas should not be built on with the exception of “privileged" developments (e.g. developments serving agricultural activities, specific public infrastructure projects). Those projects must be permitted in rural areas (without a legally binding land-use plan) in compliance with the FBC if public interests do not oppose and ample public infrastructure provision can be guaranteed. Other development projects may be permitted in compliance with the FBC as exceptional cases, provided that their execution and use do not conflict with any public interests and public infrastructure provision can be guaranteed.


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