Integrating Urban Planning and Regional Development

- Nordic and European Examples

Harmonizing and integrating regional growth policies and physical urban planning, between and across different administrative levels and political fields is an important challenge for current and future spatial planning in Sweden. In this working paper we analyze how different Nordic and European regions and countries have worked with these issues, and discuss policy potentials for improving the Swedish spatial urban and regional planning system. Nordregio Working Paper 2012:5.

The Swedish government has recurrently expressed that the regional development strategies should contribute to harmonizing and integrating plans and strategies at different governmental levels and between different administrative sectors. On behalf of Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning Nordregio has carried out a comparative study of how different strategically selected regions in Nordic and European countries has engaged with integrative planning and policy issues. The regions and countries include:

  • Central Denmark Region
  • Southwest Finland
  • Telemark County in Norway
  • Region Hannover in Germany
  • Randstad in the Netherlands
  • Greater Birmingham in England

In the study both the formal planning framework and conditions in the various countries, as well as the practical work within the regions has been analyzed. Focus of the analysis has been three dimensions of integration; sectorial collaboration, territorial coordination and synchronization of processes. The different international experiences form the basis for formulating policy potentials for enhancement of Swedish planning routines and practices. The identified policy potentials are also based on a workshop with Swedish regional and national representatives during which problems of integrating regional growth strategies and urban physical planning were discussed.

There are policy potentials for harmonizing and integrating growth policies and physical planning at all governmental levels from the national to the local within the current planning and policy framework. National spatial visions which integrate regional policies and municipal plans as well as other sectors is one possibility, another is more national statements which emphasis the national governments priorities. Synchronizing the regional and municipal planning processes and setting up regional forums for collaboration are two interesting possibilities for harmonization and integration at the regional and local level. This could be done within the current framework but could also be developed into new formal regulations that require structural changes. It is important to recognize that changing practices takes time but also the spatial planning (samhällsplanering) is an integrative activity in itself.