Check out the A&B portal!

Marceli Łasocha on spatial planning reform

07 of February '24

The article is from A&B issue 10|23

Commentary on the amendment to the Law on Planning and Spatial Development.

On August 24, 2023, the Law of July 7, 2023 on Amendments to the Law on Spatial Planning and Development and Certain Other Laws was published in the Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland.

The amendment to the law on spatial planning significantly changes the current rules of the game for space. Among the most important changes is the elimination of the document "Study of land use conditions and directions." In a nutshell, it can be said that the competencies of this document will be taken over by the Functional and Spatial Model contained in the Municipality Development Strategy and a new document constituting local law - the General Plan.

fragment Planu Ogólnego Krakowa z 1994 roku

An excerpt from the 1994 General Plan of Krakow.

© General Plan of Krakow - 1994

Reactivated after twenty years, the General Plan (as a reminder, the 1994 Land Use Act abolished this document and introduced a study, but after a long transition period, all general plans were finally abolished only in 2003) will not, however, be the kind of plan we remember from the 1990s., nor will it contain the rich substantive layer in terms of conditions and directions that the study had previously contained. The general plan, reading the legislature's intentions, will be more like American zoning, i.e. a planning zone structure with designated land use and development indicators in the form of spatial data - and nothing more! Of course, everything drawn up digitally and uniformly for the whole country.

Some of the provisions and findings of the abolished study, the rulers transferred by amendment to the Model of functional and spatial structure of the municipality. The model has already been an obligatory element of the municipality's development strategy* since 2020, which, after the amendment, became mandatory for every municipality (previously, a municipality could develop a strategy, but did not have to). Despite many protests from industry circles (including the Krakow branch of TUP), the model does not have to be drawn up by urban planners - it can be drawn up by anyone. Importantly, general plans and local plans, according to the amendment with the strategy and the model contained therein, must be compatible, so the strategy will be the first, most important planning document of the municipality. A very important question must be asked: will municipalities be aware enough to hire competent planners to draft them, or will they be done by other companies that, if not necessary, planners do not employ?

Another important issue of the changes taking place is the aforementioned digitalization, which is already evident in various branches of spatial management. Large centers will certainly cope with it, but how will it be with smaller municipalities, whose spatial branches are far more modest in terms of personnel and IT equipment?

The last issue that will affect us all is public participation. On the one hand, it is being expanded and the range of possible forms of consultation has been expanded - in addition to traditional proposals and comments, open meetings, expert panels, workshops, open-air meetings, study walks, surveys, geo-questionnaires, interviews and so on will be implemented as needed. On the other hand, consultations are to be carried out once, which poses the danger that the solutions developed may be altered or significantly distorted at further planning stages.

model struktury funkcjonalno-przestrzennej miasta Świdnica, sporządzony zgodnie z wytycznymi ustawy

A model of the functional and spatial structure of the city of Swidnica, drawn up in accordance with the guidelines of the Act

fig: ©

Concerns about the new regulations are certainly many, and only their implementation will show whether the changes are reasonable. Regardless of them, it is necessary to pay attention to responsibility in conduct and awareness in decision-making of all participants in spatial processes. This translates into the need to build social capital, that is, greater public awareness of the formation of Polish space. In such a situation, even with the possible shortcomings of the law (which we will only see in a few years), we will manage our space well.

Marceli Łasocha

The vote has already been cast