The main task of planning is to agree on the principles and conditions of land development. Spatial planning happens on several levels: national, county, general, detailed.National and county planning are compiled at the state level, where the primary goal is to express the nation's needs in terms of spatial development. Local governments, which have a high degree of autonomy in planning, develop general and detailed plans for its own territory or parts thereof.
Spatial planning is coordinated by the Minister of Regional Affairs who delivers an overview of the country's planning situation no later than 6 months after regular parliamentary elections.
National Spatial Plan "Estonia 2030+"
The National Spatial Plan “Estonia 2030+” focuses on the entire land and water area of Estonia as well as on its spatial connections with other countries. The main purpose of the plan is therefore to tackle the most general and principal matters of spatial development for the country as a whole. It provides guidelines for county plans and international planning co-operation as well as for spatial development of infrastructure, energy production etc.
Work with the National Spatial Plan started in February 2010. It is the second national spatial plan for Estonia. The previous National Spatial Plan “Estonia 2010” was adopted in 2000. The main principles of the old plan are still valid and some of them will be developed further.
These principles are:
- Safeguarding spatial accessibility of basic human needs by means of improved mobility.
- Preserving the qualities of settlement pattern and landscape.
- Spatial balancing of settlement structure.
- Good spatial connection to the rest of Europe
- Preserving the good condition of the natural environment.
The Spatial Vision for the new National Spatial Plan focuses on reducing the space-time distances between major cities by means of improved rail connections as well as by guaranteeing better connectivity of different public transport types in order to provide better possibilities for economic and social co-operation. It does so by organizing public transport so that the daily working areas are taken into account. Besides that the vision also stresses the importance of good transport connections with the rest of Europe by land, sea and air.
The vision also emphasizes the importance of maintaining the quality of settlement structure by turning the country’s small size and sparse spatial settlement structure to its benefit. To cover this idea the vision has introduced the term of “Sparse City Space” meaning the spatial diversity and regional specialization combined with well developed and competitive service centers (compact towns) that would offer freedom to choose suitable living and working locations and an appropriate lifestyle. The concept is based on people’s wish for a city lifestyle while living either in a sparsely populated countryside or well functioning specialized centre (for instance the small town of Otepää known for international skiing competitions and tourism or the town of Viljandi functioning as a centre of traditional culture). This should enhance the quality of the existing settlement structure as well as preserve the quality of nature. Improved public transport infrastructure within a small country like Estonia would reduce travel time so much that travelling from one end to the other could be done in most cases within a few hours.
As Estonia is opening up its electricity market and world energy prices are increasing, the vision also stresses the importance of renewable energy as well as energy efficiency. Energy efficiency can be achieved by better spatial planning, energy efficient building as well as better use of public transport. In the field of electric energy the country aims to have the production capability covering its own market need and be well connected to neighboring regional and European networks in order to be able to buy and sell energy from or to other markets. In order to reduce Estonia’s dependence of oil shale energy, the offshore wind parks as well as nuclear power plants are left open as options.
The National Spatial Plan, as the basis for following county plans, does not show exact locations for any major objects. Instead it defines the principles for choosing the location for such major objects as nuclear power plants or major wind farms, the new Rail Baltica railway etc and secures that these objects are connected with the needed infrastructure.
To summarize, the plan aims to secure Living Space Quality by consolidating city space, better planning, smart public transport that takes into account daily work areas, as well as improve the quality of life in sparsely populated areas.
A Strategic Environmental Impacts Assessment (SEA) for the National Plan was prepared and was approved by the Estonian Environmental Board on 27th January 2012. The SEA expert consulted the planning team during the whole planning process and the SEA report was prepared simultaneously with the plan.