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The planning system

In this article, Dr Jennie Sjöholm discusses how the planning system works at different levels - international, national, regional, and local.
London sidewalk with people and iconic buildings
© Photo by David Chapman
In urban planning and when developing public spaces, you work within a series of interrelated frameworks. These are spanning from international agreements and policies, to national and local legislation, policy, and guidelines.

The Sustainable Development Goals is an example of overarching policy, adopted by the UN members. The Human Rights is another example. These are regulated by International law. Another example of international framework is related to UNESCOs World Heritage Sites, which are protected by an international convention.

International agreements need to be implemented at national level by the states, and aligned with national legislation frameworks. Countries have different legal systems and traditions of regulating the built environments. For instance, there can be planning and building acts, conservation acts, environmental codes etc.

National legislation needs, in turn, to be implemented at regional and local levels. This can be done through regional plans and town plans. For cities and towns, there are often master plans, development plans, conservation plans etc., adopted by the local authorities. Guidelines and codes might complement the formal plans to help achieve the desired developments. As the regional and local plans need to consider the place-specific prerequisites, baseline studies can be used to better understand the place and how to balance different wishes and requirements. Consultations with the public and with stakeholders affected by the developments are often part of the planning process.

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Placemaking and Public Space Design: Unlocking Place Potential

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