SPATIAL PLANNING IN ESTONIA--FROM A SOCIALIST TO INCLUSIVE PERSPECTIVE.

AuthorHiob, Mart
  1. An overview of planning changes in Europe

    The goal of the article is to exemplify the changes that have taken place in spatial planning thinking and practice in Estonia in the last quarter of a century using a suburb of Tartu as a case study. The authors looked both at the planning ideology revealed in planning documents and manuals, and in the conducting of planning processes by local municipality in the observed period. The authors have a deep insight into the background data as they have actively participated in these discussions over the last 10-15 years. The article starts with a general overview of theoretical spatial planning and how Estonia's position has changed since the end of Soviet occupation. Thereafter one concentrates on the case study to reveal deeper connections and influences.

    Following the environmental and social crisis launched by the industrial revolution, European countries enforced social and building standards by mid-19th century (Benevolo, 1971). First attempts at systematic, more expansive urban planning were made in the second half of the 19th century in larger European cities (Paris, Vienna, Barcelona, etc.). Before in that period, towns were often designed (not necessarily planned) according to defensive and visual aspects only. However, modern systematic urban planning began at the beginning of the previous century. The need for more consistent and systematic urban planning was created by the desire to control, at least on some level, the fast expansion of cities that occurred due to rapid industrial development that, in turn, created the need for common technical networks and facilities to resolve social problems in overgrown city regions.

    Until the 1960s architectural and technical plans were drawn mainly for cities and urban areas. From the 1960s onwards, regional planning has become increasingly common. In Western Europe, systematic planning of whole countries began in the 1980s. The first significant economic growth period after the Second World War occurred in the 1960s and brought along a radical change in ownership patterns. Owning real estate (i.e., your own house, a tract of land, or an apartment) became possible for more and more people. An increasing number of people and their control over their properties were directly influenced by planning. On the other hand planning theorists, most prominently Jane Jacobs (1993), argued that the genuinely valuable result of planning is possible only when residents are consulted in the process. Since the 1960s and 1970s it became a general requirement in the Western European legal system to make the plans accessible to the public. These processes caused changes in the essence of planning, the way planning was conducted, as well as, the legal side of planning (The European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter, 1983).

    Urban planning was dominated by architecture and design during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the middle of the 20th century the scientific approach, whose goal was to create structure-oriented efficient city-plans, became popular. This type of urban planning was done by specialists, and the role of local government representatives was modest. The general public usually did not have a say in planning (Lass, 2012). From the 1970s and 1980s the scope of planning has enlarged both in topics, such as the addition of physical, social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects, and in public participation where all interest groups should be included. In the center of this kind of planning is the city as a complex, spatial and technical system, and the co-effect of the different components of the system.

    This kind of interdisciplinary planning became known as spatial planning. The collaborative planning approach described by Patsy Healey (Healey, 1997) which built on the communicative planning theory of Jurgen Habermas (Healey, 2003) has become widely accepted in Europe both among theorists and in planning acts. Collaborative planning puts emphases on the planning process and information exchange among experts and concerned people. The collaborative planning approach seeks to include all interested parties in the planning procedures. In principle, all opinions should be taken into account equally and all proposals should be considered. Collaborative or inclusive planning supports social integration and helps to build more viable and resilient communities. The critics have claimed that collaborative planning is not as inclusive as theory and legal instruments suggest (Fainstein, 2010). The difficulties lie both in getting every concerned resident involved and weighing opposing opinions equally. The problem is divided into a question of technique--how to get the information to all necessary people, and a more practical question whether the planning process gains from the opinions of people who have no will to participate, yet the decisions influence their situation. More radical critics uphold that the inclusive planning approach, in a neoliberal society, does not benefit the poor as the aim is not a more fair society but simply the justification of unfair planning decisions (Miraftab, 2009). There is a disjunction between formal and substantive inclusion, which has to be dealt with to move toward an equal and fair planning practice.

    Most of Eastern Europehas some experience with democracy before WWII, but spatial planning was not necessarily an acknowledged profession. Soviet totalitarianism attempted to manage all facets of the society. Contrary to Western discussions, the totalitarian Soviet controlled system preferred submission and tried to avoid participation, but the rise of democracy in late 1980s and early 1990s directly influenced the spatial planning field as a fully visible sector of the society.

  2. Spatial planning acts and their implementation in contemporary Estonia

    During the Soviet influence over Eastern Europe, socialist, top-down spatial planning practice prevailed. After the end of communism regime in the 1990s, new Western style planning standards were implemented all over Eastern Europe. Preparations for compiling the modern Planning and Building Act were made even before Estonia gained independence on August 20, 1991. The Planning and Building Act (PBA) came into effect on July 22, 1995 and remained in effect without any major changes for more than seven years. The need for changes in the act came from its implementation. The most radical change proposed was that planning issues and those related to engineering and building were divided into two separate acts. Separate acts for planning and building both came into effect on January 1, 2003.

    Compiling plans in Estonia is currently regulated by the Planning Act. No. 2 of the Act states that a plan is a document created in the process of planning which consists of text and blueprints, which complement each other and form an integrated unit. There are four types of plans in Estonia: a national spatial plan, which is the state's spatial development strategy that sets the state's balanced spatial development goals and ways to achieve those goals; county plans, which describe the county's general prospective spatial development (there are 15 counties in Estonia), sets the conditions for the development of settlements and the locations of the main infrastructure facilities; comprehensive municipal plans, which set the main goals of the spatial development of a parish or a town and defines the general terms of land use and building conditions; and detailed plans, which set the definitive terms of land use and building conditions in built-up areas as well as in other areas and in cases where detailed plans are necessary.

    In Estonia, the Constitution, the Local Government Organization Act, and the Planning Act all state that the local government has the final say on matters that deal with building and planning on their territory. In practice, the majority of planning documents are compiled in private bureaus and financed by real estate owners or developers, sometimes also by governmental organizations and municipal governments. The right to compile planning documents belongs to experts with higher education in the field of spatial planning, architecture or other relevant disciplines. Because of the building boom of 2005-2008 there was a sudden need for plans to apply for building permits, and plans were compiled by people with higher education in any field. Despite the fact that the act states that plans can be compiled by planners, no planners have been educated in Estonia. Planning has been taught together with architecture (urban design), landscape architecture and human geography (regional planning). In addition, there are several other fields that have a lot to do with planning, such as urbanistic (deals with urban studies) and real estate development. During the years of the building boom, plans were also compiled by real estate...

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