Spatial planning

Spatial planning

Finland’s land use planning system, as defined in the Land Use and Building Act (132/1999), is based on a three-level planning hierarchy. The basic principle of the planning system is moving down the hierarchy towards more specific plans, so that the higher-level plan guides the lower. This means that a lower-level master plan may deviate from a higher plan only as an exception.

The regional land use plan (maakuntakaava) is a generic plan, which guides development on the regional level. It has to promote the national land use guidelines, which provide generic targets for good land use policies. The plan is prepared and approved by the regional councils. Most of the regional plans include areas that are designated for wind power development. The regional plan provides a general indication of areas suitable for large-scale wind power development. Any wind power project of regional importance should, as a ground rule, be based on regional land use planning. Usually, the regional importance is defined as 10 or more wind power turbines, but this figure differs between the Regions. Detailed land use planning may not conflict with the regional plan.

The municipality supervises

The two municipal land use plans are the local master plan (yleiskaava) and the detailed plan (asemakaava). Both the local master plans and detailed plans are drafted and approved by the municipalities. In practice, the plans are generally prepared by consultants and the developer is responsible for the planning costs, but the municipality is always the supervising and approving party. However, it should be noted that the approval is a political decision, which means that the municipality is not obliged to approve the plan. The project cannot be taken forward unless the approval has been obtained.

There is specific regulation in force which allows the local master plan to be drafted specifically for wind power construction. The wind power local master plan only covers the project area and allows the building permits to be granted directly based on the master plan.

The number of turbines is an influencing factor

A detailed plan for a wind farm may be necessary in densely populated areas or other areas with specific needs for detailed consideration of the coordination of different land use purposes in the area.

Building permits for the construction of wind power turbines may, in some cases, be granted without land use planning. Land use planning may be deemed unnecessary when only a few turbines are planned in a specific area. Building permits without land use planning can be granted based on a so-called deviation permit, which allows the municipality to deviate from any land use purpose defined in a general or detailed plan by a planning decision (“suunnittelutarveratkaisu”), which requires more preconditions for the building to be considered than in consideration of a regular building permit. These may especially be granted in areas constructed and designated for industrial use or harbors. As a counterweight to the benefit of a shorter time for the permitting phase, deviation permits, and planning decisions generally face a higher risk of successful appeals.