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As the level of development increases, spatial planning is becoming more significant among public management tools. Although the issue of spatial planning and its mechanisms has been repeatedly investigated in the literature, the issue of clashing of interests of different actors remains to be examined. Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare the enforcement mechanisms of the public interest in the spatial planning systems of Poland and Portugal. The analysis was based on a comparative analysis of the legal basis of the spatial planning systems of the countries. The research confirmed the hypothesis that even with some sociocultural and economic similarities, different countries do not have to create similar mechanisms for the realisation of the public interest in spatial planning processes. The specific solutions adopted in Poland and Portugal differ so much that the enforcement of the public interest proceeds with very few similarities. The integrated Portuguese planning system, with its hierarchical elements, facilitates the achievement of the objectives of public entities. On the other hand, the Polish system, with the dominant position of the municipality, pushes great possibilities of influencing the planning by land administrators, and the poor location of spatial planning in all public tasks makes it difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to achieve public goals in space.
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Citation: Gorzym-Wilkowski, W.A.;
Trykacz, K. Public Interest in Spatial
Planning Systems in Poland and
Portugal. Land 2022,11, 73.
https://doi.org/10.3390/
land11010073
Academic Editors: John Tomaney
and Tamara Antonia Krawchenko
Received: 13 November 2021
Accepted: 27 December 2021
Published: 4 January 2022
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land
Article
Public Interest in Spatial Planning Systems in Poland
and Portugal
Waldemar A. Gorzym-Wilkowski * and Karolina Trykacz
Department of Spatial Management, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Krasnicka 2d, 20-718 Lublin, Poland;
karolina.trykacz@mail.umcs.pl
*Correspondence: waldemar.gorzym-wilkowski@mail.umcs.pl
Abstract:
As the level of development increases, spatial planning is becoming more significant among
public management tools. Although the issue of spatial planning and its mechanisms has been
repeatedly investigated in the literature, the issue of clashing of interests of different actors remains
to be examined. Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare the enforcement mechanisms of the
public interest in the spatial planning systems of Poland and Portugal. The analysis was based on a
comparative analysis of the legal basis of the spatial planning systems of the countries. The research
confirmed the hypothesis that even with some sociocultural and economic similarities, different
countries do not have to create similar mechanisms for the realisation of the public interest in spatial
planning processes. The specific solutions adopted in Poland and Portugal differ so much that the
enforcement of the public interest proceeds with very few similarities. The integrated Portuguese
planning system, with its hierarchical elements, facilitates the achievement of the objectives of public
entities. On the other hand, the Polish system, with the dominant position of the municipality, pushes
great possibilities of influencing the planning by land administrators, and the poor location of spatial
planning in all public tasks makes it difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to achieve public goals
in space.
Keywords: spatial planning; spatial planning system; public interest; Poland; Portugal
1. Introduction
For years, spatial planning has been a key mechanism used by public authorities
to influence reality [
1
], which is quite understandable given the fact that the subject and
objectives of spatial planning are very extensive and complicated [
2
]. Planning refers to the
entirety of public management along with its economic, social, and environmental effects
as well as conflicts arising during the functioning and transformations of space. In the
literature on the subject, there is a consensus that a significant goal of spatial planning is
to coordinate development policies pertaining to various sectors of social and economic
life [
3
,
4
]. What is more, Albrechts et al. [
5
] indicate that spatial planning is also a platform
where public and private actors interact. This is because, as Martínez [
6
] and Ganis [
7
]
observe, spatial planning, due to the broad scope of its regulations, is an instrument, or at
least a condition, for many entities to achieve their objectives (especially economic ones).
A considerable number of publications on the spatial planning systems of European
countries (including EU member states) have already been produced. There are a growing
number of detailed analyses of spatial planning systems in individual countries [
8
]. Some
of works are also of an overview nature, comparing the planning systems of different
countries [
8
10
]. The classic works that include comparative analysis are focused on
“planning families” or “planning traditions” [9].
Most of the mentioned works examine various countries. As a rule, publications do
not take into account both countries of interest to the authors of this paper (i.e., Poland
and Portugal), or they include only one of them. Even if both countries are included,
Land 2022,11, 73. https://doi.org/10.3390/land11010073 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/land
Land 2022,11, 73 2 of 21
they are not widely discussed, and the issue of enforcing actors is rather rarely discussed.
Comparative analyses usually concern Poland and Germany, Refs. [
11
,
12
], or Portugal and
Brazil, Refs. [
13
15
]. Furthermore, the publications so far contain quite comprehensive
analyses of planning systems, and the issue of clashing interests of various entities is
usually discussed only marginally. Therefore, there are some opinions, Ref. [
16
] that the
existing research on planning systems in the European Union needs to be deepened and
detailed. The authors of this paper wish to fill this gap, at least to some extent.
Undoubtedly, there are various factors that influence spatial planning systems, such as
historical conditions, socioeconomic and cultural contexts, and what is more, political ones.
These patterns have brought about particular forms of government. Furthermore, planning
systems are often influenced by international agreements (e.g., European integration).
The possibility for planners to cooperate beyond the regional or national borders enables
particular countries to learn from various other practices. It may end up with, to some
extent, harmonisation or convergence [
17
]. A significant document at the European level
is adopted in the 1999 European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) [
18
]. It aims
at coherent and complementary spatial development strategies in the European Union
member states. However, ESDP is not a binding document. It indicates common directions
of action of the member states in the context of spatial policies [19].
The objective of this study is to compare the relationship between the mechanisms
of representing the public and private interest in the spatial planning systems of Poland
and Portugal, indicating the similarities and differences between procedures. Two demo-
cratic European Union countries with similar levels of socioeconomic development have
been selected for comparison. The article is based on the hypothesis that even political,
sociocultural, and economic similarities do not necessarily lead to the creation of similar
mechanisms of weighing the public and private interest in spatial planning processes.
The question is raised regarding how public interest consideration can be enforced in
the spatial planning systems of Poland and Portugal. Do similar determinants create similar
mechanisms of weighing the public and private interest in spatial planning processes? Are
the spatial planning systems of Poland and Portugal considerably different after all, and
can valuable conclusions for both countries be drawn from these differences? A better
understanding of these two systems may be useful in the context of learning from good
experiences and creating a better space.
The Theoretical Framework
In the literature, there are various divisions of groups of spatial planning systems,
according to the classic work of Newman and Thornley [
8
]. They divide the systems into
five families: British, Scandinavian, Napoleonic, Germanic, and East European. Portugal
is an example of the Napoleonic family, the biggest distinguished group, while Poland
the East European one. The Napoleonic family is characterised by the primacy of the rule
of law. The local government has relatively strong control through central entities. In
countries such as Portugal, where dictatorship has spanned many years, centralisation was
even stronger. The poorer economic prosperity of the country suggests that most likely
the centralised approach was used. Due to changes after the fall of the dictatorship, for
instance, the fused system has been visible. The East European family was at the beginning
of its creation after 1989 (the work is dated 1996). However, the common past understood
as communist time, with a high level of centralisation, seemed to be quite a significant
reason of some similarities within this family.
In the 1990s, the European Commission in “the EU compendium of spatial planning
systems and policies” [
20
] distinguished four main traditions of spatial planning: regional
economic planning approach, comprehensive integrated approach, land use management, and
urbanism tradition. Portugal is therefore an example, although to a lesser extent, of the first
group. The regional economic planning approach is related to quite a broad understanding of
spatial planning, with a significant role of socioeconomic aims. In terms of planning, there
Land 2022,11, 73 3 of 21
is rather a top–down approach, and public investments are highly ranged. Poland was not
included in this work (it was not a member of the European Union at that time).
ESPON 2.3.2. Governance of Territorial and Urban Policies from EU to Local Level
is based on a typology from the compendium, but some changes are visible. Portugal is
still placed under regional economic planning and also under land use planning, where
planning is related to intervention in the use of land in the local and strategic contexts.
What is important for this paper is that this work also includes Poland. The authors
qualified Poland as an example of the comprehensive integrated approach. This group is
characterised by its hierarchical spatial planning, from the national to the local level [
20
,
21
].
Reimer, Getimis, and Blotevogel in 2014 [
9
] analysed the transformation that has occurred
since 1990. Based on “planning traditions”, they took into consideration at least two countries
from four groups (regional–economic, urbanism, comprehensive/integrated, and “land use
planning”), selecting Poland and Turkey as the examples of developments in East Central
and Southeast Europe. In total, 12 countries were examined with the final, comparative
conclusions. Although the work takes into account Poland, Portugal is not included.
As living standards rise in most European countries, while the diversity and pace of
transformation of their economies increase, the importance of spatial planning is grow-
ing [
22
]. Therefore, it is evident that the literature on the nature of spatial planning and the
scope of its provisions is vast and varied. Different authors define the object and purpose of
spatial planning in different ways. Some understand it as both defining a picture of future
reality and ways of achieving it [
23
,
24
]. Others, on the other hand, use the term exclusively
or primarily to describe the future shape of reality [
25
,
26
]. Cullingworth and Nadin [
27
]
point to an obvious reason for this diversity of views, namely, different legal regulations on
spatial planning existing in different countries.
The shape of legal regulations is also crucial for the future shape of space, which
is a resultant of the interests of various entities. Due to the limited nature of space and
divergence of objectives formulated by the different players in the “game for space”, only
some of them have the possibility to achieve their goals. At the same time, the achievement
of the objectives of specific entities does not necessarily depend on, for example, the
compatibility of these objectives with urban planning principles. Various political pressures
are among the factors influencing the decisions of spatial planners [
28
]. Grange [
29
] points
out that spatial planners always work under political pressure both as subordinates to
entities of a more or less political nature and because their actions are based on regulations
created by legislative bodies. As a result, each planning system emphasises certain values
(inherently close to some participants in the “competition for space”) at the expense of
others [
30
]. This has to mean that different spatial planning systems always inevitably
favour or disadvantage the interests of different parties [
31
]. At the same time, there is a
fairly common opinion that the values preferred in the spatial planning system are the same
values preferred by the prevailing political and economic system in a given country [
32
].
This is an inevitable result of the role of planning as one of the elements of the political and
administrative system [33].
The natural pressure from economically motivated private entities raises the question
of the role of spatial planning in formulating and defending the public interest. After
all, numerous public tasks have a spatial expression [
34
], and spatial planning naturally
links, harmonises, and sometimes even enables the implementation of various public
policies [
35
,
36
]. The nature of spatial planning means that public institutions must be the
actors in this sphere of planning. It may thus seem that the public interest will always have
an appropriately high status in spatial planning arrangements.
Nevertheless, views on this issue vary. Documents produced by public bodies, such as
the institutions of the European Union and the Council of Europe, Refs. [
37
39
], generally
emphasise the role of spatial planning as a tool for the integrated shaping and protection
of certain public values—nature, cultural heritage, or landscape. UNECE even indicates
that spatial planning is the natural and only tool that can ensure balance between private
and public interests [
25
]. However, E. R. Alexander [
40
] points out that, on the one hand,
Land 2022,11, 73 4 of 21
the public interest is indeed the raison d’être of spatial planning. On the other hand,
this planning is a platform for the clash of interests of numerous and diverse actors. The
multiplicity of these actors means that the full realisation of the public interest is not
possible. Furthermore, as P. Allmendinger and G. Haughton [
41
] note, in the recent years,
some authors have understood not the public interest but economic efficiency as the main
objective to be served by spatial planning. M. Papageorgiou [
42
] points out that, for
instance, the evolution of the Greek spatial planning system, implemented in the second
decade of the 21st century, goes in precisely, such a “neoliberal” direction.
Many authors point out that the actual place of the public interest in spatial planning is
influenced by the planning culture existing in a given country. M. Neuman [
43
], indicating the
ongoing discussions on the subject, argues that the planning culture should be considered as a
common way of thinking about the principles of spaceshaping. This way results not only from
the professional view of planners but also from the value system adopted in a given society.
Similarly, D. Fürst [
44
] argues that the planning culture consists of mental predispositions
shared by all people involved in the planning process. M. Reimer and H. H. Blotevogel [
33
]
pragmatically conclude that the planning culture manifests itself in the real behaviours and
decisions of planners operating within a particular spatial planning system.
Therefore, the authors of the paper believe that the legal structure of a spatial planning
system in a particular country plays a decisive role. The essential elements of this structure
that determine the possibility of enforcing the public interest in space are primarily:
The content (provisions) of documents drawn up by various public entities and the
rank of public values in these provisions;
Relationships between the content of specific documents, manifested particularly in the
possibility for various public entities to influence the content of the particular documents;
The impact, through public participation mechanisms, of private individuals, partic-
ularly property owners, on the content of planning documents that are the basis for
issuing building permits.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Study Area
Two peripheral European countries—Poland and Portugal—are the subject of compar-
ative analysis (Figure 1). Comparing the spatial planning systems of these two countries
makes it possible to draw valuable conclusions concerning the actual consequences of each
of these systems. It should be noted that the similarities between Poland and Portugal
are evident despite the geographical distance and considerable differences in area, pop-
ulation size, or settlement structure. The similarities are emphasised in the literature, for
example, with regard to cultural issues or the long-lasting undemocratic regimes that these
two countries experienced [45,46].
Land 2022,11, 73 5 of 21
Land 2022, 10, x FOR PEER REVIEW 5 of 23
Figure 1. Location of Poland and Portugal.
Both countries used to be powerful, but that era ended several decades or even
centuries ago [47]. Moreover, for much of the 20th century, both were governed by au-
thoritarian or even totalitarian regimes that restricted human freedom, the importance of
ownership, and the functioning of local self-government. Portugal embarked on the road
to democratic transition in 1974 [48–50], while Poland did it 15 years later [51,52]. The
history of these countries has also had an impact on the level of their socioeconomic de-
velopment, which is noticeably lower than the level of most of the “old” European Union
countries. Despite an 18-year difference between the EU accession of Portugal (1986) and
Poland (2004) (See: Official website of the European Union, i.e.,
https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu [53]), both countries are still among the big-
gest beneficiaries of structural funds [54]. In particular, some regions of both Poland and
Portugal are among the poorest regions in the EU [55,56]. There are also internal regional
variations within these countries, with western regions leading the way [55,57], which is
important in the context of structural funds. G. Gorzelak et al. [58] and similarly G.
Cotella [59] point out at the same time that Poland and Portugal are characterised by a
similar level of centralisation, measured by the share of the central level in the allocation
of EU funds. The basic socioeconomic characteristics of Poland and Portugal are pre-
sented in Table 1.
Table 1. Basic characteristics of the examined countries, 1995–2019.
1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2019
Population on 1 January
PL * 38,580,5
97 38,263,303 (b) 38,173,835 38,022,869
(b) 38,005,614 37,972,812
PT ** 10
,
008
,
6
59 10,249,022 10,494,672 10,573,479 10,374,822 10,276,617
Population by educational attainment
level, tertiary education, 15–64 years
(%)
PL x 9.2
(b) 13.9 19.4
(b) 24.4 28.2
PT 9.1 7.5
(b) 11.1 13.9 20.7 23.8
Gross domestic product at market
prices (current prices, euro per capita)
PL 2840 4880 6450 9400 11,190 13,900
PT 9080 12,480 15,100 16,990 17,350 20,800(p)
Unemployment, 15–74 years (% of PL x 16.2 (b) 17.8 9.7
(b) 7.5 3.3
Figure 1. Location of Poland and Portugal.
Both countries used to be powerful, but that era ended several decades or even cen-
turies ago [
47
]. Moreover, for much of the 20th century, both were governed by authoritarian
or even totalitarian regimes that restricted human freedom, the importance of ownership,
and the functioning of local self-government. Portugal embarked on the road to democratic
transition in 1974 [
48
50
], while Poland did it 15 years later [
51
,
52
]. The history of these
countries has also had an impact on the level of their socioeconomic development, which is
noticeably lower than the level of most of the “old” European Union countries. Despite
an 18-year difference between the EU accession of Portugal (1986) and Poland (2004) (See:
Official website of the European Union, i.e., https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu
(accessed on 26 December 2021) [
53
]), both countries are still among the biggest beneficia-
ries of structural funds [
54
]. In particular, some regions of both Poland and Portugal are
among the poorest regions in the EU [
55
,
56
]. There are also internal regional variations
within these countries, with western regions leading the way [
55
,
57
], which is important
in the context of structural funds. G. Gorzelak et al. [
58
] and similarly G. Cotella [
59
]
point out at the same time that Poland and Portugal are characterised by a similar level of
centralisation, measured by the share of the central level in the allocation of EU funds. The
basic socioeconomic characteristics of Poland and Portugal are presented in Table 1.
Table 1. Basic characteristics of the examined countries, 1995–2019.
1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2019
Population on 1 January PL * 38,580,597 38,263,303 (b) 38,173,835 38,022,869 (b) 38,005,614 37,972,812
PT ** 10,008,659 10,249,022 10,494,672 10,573,479 10,374,822 10,276,617
Population by educational attainment
level, tertiary education, 15–64 years (%)
PL x 9.2 (b) 13.9 19.4 (b) 24.4 28.2
PT 9.1 7.5 (b) 11.1 13.9 20.7 23.8
Gross domestic product at market prices
(current prices, euro per capita)
PL 2840 4880 6450 9400 11,190 13,900
PT 9080 12,480 15,100 16,990 17,350 20,800 (p)
Unemployment, 15–74 years (% of
active population)
PL x 16.2 (b) 17.8 9.7 (b) 7.5 3.3
PT 7.4 (e) 4.1 7.7 11 12.6 6.5
Median equivalised net income (PPS) PL x x 4759 7578 9950 12,335
PT 6242 7767 8236 9728 10,317 11,602
Gini coefficient of equivalised
disposable income
PL x 30 35.6 31.1 30.6 28.5
PT 37 36 38.1 33.7 34 31.9
* Poland; ** Portugal; b—break in time series; e—estimated; p—provisional; x—not available.
Land 2022,11, 73 6 of 21
In the countries analysed, the respect of private ownership and self-governance of spatial
planning entities is constitutionally guaranteed. Article 64 of the Constitution of the Republic
of Poland [
60
] provides that everyone has the right to property, which may be restricted only
by way of legislation. Chapter VII legitimises the local government as a fundamental element
of public authority. Similar principles are laid down in Article 62 of the Constitution of the
Portuguese Republic. Furthermore, Article 65 of the constitution explicitly guarantees the
participation of stakeholders in the preparation of spatial planning instruments [61].
The similarities of constitutional provisions correspond with the international conven-
tions ratified by both countries. Portugal, on 9 November 1978, and Poland, on 10 October
1994, became parties to Protocol 1 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights
and Fundamental Freedoms, signed in Paris on 20 March 1952 [
62
,
63
]. This protocol, which
generally regulates the protection of ownership, has to influence spatial planning regula-
tions because it contains provisions concerning, for example, the question of respecting the
property of any natural or legal person. At the same time, however, state signatories to
the convention have the right to enact such laws as they deem necessary to regulate the
use of property in accordance with the general interest. Regulations governing the use of
property are, of course, a key function of spatial planning.
Another piece of international law, namely, the European Charter of Local Self-
Government, refers to the structure of powers of individual public authorities. This charter
was ratified by Portugal on 18 December 1990 [
64
] and by Poland on 22 November 1993 [
65
].
The state signatories undertake to protect the competences of local self-government. At the
same time, they impose an obligation on local authorities to consult local communities, in
a timely and appropriate manner (during the preparation), on plans and decisions in all
matters directly affecting them [
66
] (Article 4). These provisions thus refer to the spatial
planning system and its functioning.
2.2. Research Methods
The subject of the authors’ interest is the structural (legal) basis of planning systems.
The mechanisms of enforcing public and private interest considerations in the spatial
planning systems of Poland and Portugal were examined based on a critical analysis of
legislation and literature concerning spatial planning and its broad systemic context. The
qualitative approach is justified in the examination of systemic determinants because it
enables understanding the legislative and procedural determinants. Analyses of legislation
and literature concerning spatial planning (also in the context of its changes) in the countries
under study were conducted by Carter and Silva [
67
], Silva [
68
], Gorzym-Wilkowski [
69
],
Kolipi´nski [70], among other researchers.
The present study was based on comparative analysis. It is frequently used in many
domains, also in research on spatial planning. Comparisons of spatial planning systems
were carried out by Newman and Thornley [
8
], Reimer et al. [
9
], Nadin et al. [
10
], among
others. The methods used enabled the analysis of:
The content of the individual spatial planning documents, including primarily issues
related to public values;
The procedure for preparing the individual spatial planning documents, including the
interactions between various public entities and the scope of public participation;
The manner of implementing spatial planning documents and their impact on other documents.
These analyses were used to try to answer the question of how public interest consid-
eration can be enforced in the spatial planning systems of Poland and Portugal. The key
issue here seems to be the material scope of spatial planning within the remit of individ-
ual public actors (i.e., those elements of space that specific institutions have the right to
shape). Equally important, however, are the interactions between the various institutions,
in particular, how conflicts between their particular interests are resolved. In addition,
the mechanisms of social participation can be very important and, in many cases, crucial.
In fact, public participation in many cases serves the purpose of declaring and enforcing
private interests, often in conflict with the public interest.
Land 2022,11, 73 7 of 21
The detailed analysis of the legal basis with insight into the procedures led the authors
to answer the question about the mechanisms of weighting the public and private interests.
The actions that have to be performed during the preparation of the particular documents,
such as opinions and agreements, indicate the meaning of interests. Furthermore, dif-
ferences in documents and their preparation were compared. Assuming that a strong
meaning of the public interest is profitable for a space and its users, the conclusions may be
a valuable guideline for the second analysed country.
3. Results
The systemic shape of spatial planning depends predominantly on the administra-
tion structure of a state. The decentralisation of public authority has been evident in
Poland following the administrative reform initiated in 1990. There is a three-tier admin-
istrative division, with an important role played by local governments [
71
]. At present
(as of
1 January 2021
), the territory of Poland is divided into 16 voivodeships (Polish
województwa), which in turn are divided into 314 counties (Polish powiaty), each com-
prising up to a dozen or so municipalities (Polish gminy). Alongside the structure of
counties, there are several dozen (66) largest cities, commonly referred to as “urban coun-
ties” (powiatygrodzkie) that combine the county and municipality statuses. Municipalities
(2477 nationwide) are a fundamental tier of the administrative division. Each municipality
encompasses an area of about a dozen or more villages, a single city, or a small town with
the adjacent rural areas [
72
]. A special entity within Poland’s system of administrative
division is the metropolitan association, which only in the Silesian Voivodeship currently
exists, and encompasses over 40 municipalities (most of them are cities) [73,74].
The municipality, satisfying most of the collective needs of the local community, is
the key structure within Poland’s system of local government [
60
,
71
]. These needs include
local roads, communal infrastructure, and primary schools [
75
] (Article 7). The county,
also having a local government status, and managing certain roads, among other tasks [
76
]
(Article 4), is predominantly responsible for strictly administrative matters, handled on
behalf of the government administration. The metropolitan association focuses on tasks
related to public road and rail transport [
73
] (Article 12). The provincial self-government
pursues (in principle) a regional development policy, carries out tasks in the field of spatial
planning, and manages, among other things, major roads and rail transport of regional
importance [
77
] (Articles 11 and 14). At the same territorial level as the voivodeship
government, there is a separate governmental administration [
78
] that performs mainly
supervisory functions.
Although the administrative structure of Portugal is still in the process of transfor-
mation, it is divided into three tiers similar to Poland. In 1996, pursuant to the Consti-
tution of the Portuguese Republic, local government was established, which, eventually,
consisted of three levels of local government in the mainland: administrative regions (Por-
tuguese regiõesadministrativas), municipalities (Portuguese municípios), and civil parishes
(Portuguese freguesias) (The autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira consist of
municipalities and parishes. The autonomy of these regions, in lieu of administrative
regions, is guaranteed by the constitution [
79
]). Despite numerous attempts, administrative
regions have not been implemented until today, and their creation is merely a “constitu-
tional objective” [
46
,
79
81
]. Until they are established, the division into municipalities is
formally binding according to the constitution [
61
]. Significant change occurred in 2013
when the division of 18 districts was, in a way, replaced by a division of intermunicipal
communities (Portuguese comunidadesintermunicipais—CIM) and metropolitan areas
(Portuguese áreasmetropolitanas—AM) [
81
83
]. Two AMs of administrative nature exist
around the two largest cities (Lisbon and Porto), and CIMs of a similar character exist in
the remaining areas. Furthermore, central public administration (i.e., regional directorates
of various ministries) exist at the regional level. A total of 308 municipalities (including 278
in the mainland) function at the local level. The municipalities are divided into small civil
parishes, which are quite numerous (3092, including 2882 in the mainland) [81,83,84].
Land 2022,11, 73 8 of 21
Similar to Poland, the municipality is the key element of Portugal’s administrative
structure. It performs the most important public tasks and responds to the needs of the
population (e.g., transport and communications, education, basic sanitary conditions) [
82
]
(Article 23). Some of these tasks are performed (formally on behalf of the municipality) by
the civil parish. Metropolitan areas and intermunicipal communities are responsible mainly
for coordinating tasks (especially investment projects) of a supramunicipal character. The
significance of NUTS 2 units should also be noted. Regional planning is conducted at this
level in Portugal. These units are administered by the Commissions for Coordination and
Regional Development (Portuguese Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional,
hereinafter CCDR), which constitute decentralised governmental administration [46,81,85].
Spatial planning in Poland is currently (as of July 2021) based on the 23 March 2003
Act on Spatial Planning and Development [
86
], which has been amended several times
since it was adopted. For many years, the above act granted spatial planning powers to
three levels of government: central government, voivodeship government, and municipal
government. From the very introduction of the current system, the county has had an
auxiliary role.
The Polish Act on Spatial Planning and Development stipulates several goals that
should be considered in the process of planning and subsequent development of space.
Although these goals include ownership and the economic value of space, emphasis is
put on values of public nature, such as spatial order, landscape values, requirements of
environmental protection, and cultural heritage preservation as well as generally defined
requirements of the public interest [87].
Spatial planning in Portugal is currently based on two pieces of legislation: the
30 May
2014 Law on the general principles of spatial development and urban planning [
88
]
(hereinafter LBGPPSOTU) and the new regime of planning instruments (i.e., the Presidential
Decree of 14 May 2015 [
89
], hereinafter NRJIGT). The Portuguese spatial planning system
is much more complex than the system functioning in Poland. Although Portugal has a
much smaller territory than Poland, Portuguese law grants spatial planning powers to four
levels of public administration, namely, central, regional (CCDR), intermunicipal (including
metropolitan), and municipal administration [
14
,
88
,
89
]. Civil parishes, undoubtedly owing
to their small territory and weak powers, are excluded from this system.
Spatial planning documents in Portugal are divided into programmes and plans [
88
]
(Article 38), among which only plans are binding to private entities, while programmes
are binding to public administration only [
90
]. The public interest has a very high rank
among the values that spatial planning is to serve. Section II of Chapter I of NRJIGT [
89
]
is entirely devoted to values of a public character, and these values include sustainable
development, intra- and intergenerational solidarity, quality of life and public security, and
national defence requirements. Environmental protection issues are also important.
3.1. Planning at the National Level
Spatial planning at the national level in Poland is currently undergoing transforma-
tion. In July 2020 [
91
], the national level was removed from the planning system almost
completely. In the new system, the medium-term national development strategy (Polish ab-
breviation: ´
SSRK) is to be the basis for the central government to influence spatial planning.
It is to be “a document specifying the basic conditions, goals and directions of the country’s
development in the social, economic and spatial dimension over a period of 10–15 years as
well as detailed actions over a four-year period” [
92
] (Article 9). The document has not been
completed yet; hence, it is difficult to assess its effectiveness. Until recently, for 17 years, the
fundamental document was the National Spatial Development Concept (Polish koncepcja
przestrzennego zagospodarowania kraju (KPZK)), which was primarily concerned with
the national settlement system along with its basic elements, issues related to environmen-
tal protection and historic monument preservation; distribution of social, technical, and
transport infrastructure of international and national importance; and problem areas of
national importance.
Land 2022,11, 73 9 of 21
In general, the preparation of KPZK by the government did not require discussing or
consulting the draft of this document by other public entities. The law did not provide for
the participation of the public whether in the form of opinions formulated by individuals
or positions expressed by public organisations, economic entities, and so forth. The only
advisory body for the drafting of the concept was the State Council for Spatial Planning,
appointed (optionally) by the prime minister [
93
] (Article 47). Currently, when drawing
up the ´
SSRK, the legislator takes into account the question of consulting local government
units (and their associations), the Joint Commission of Government and Local Government,
and civic and business partners [92] (Article 6).
The resolutions of the KPZK had to be taken into account (until the above-mentioned
amendment of the Act in 2020) in the voivodeship spatial development plans (Polish
abbreviation: PZPW) prepared by the voivodeship self-governments [
94
] (Article 39). At
present, the PZPW will take into account the provisions of the ´
SSRK [86] (Article 39).
Spatial planning at the national level in Portugal is more complex than in Poland. The
National Spatial Planning Policy Programme (Portuguese Programanacional da política
de ordenamento do território (PNPOT)), amended in 2019, is central in this respect [
95
].
This programme is to lay down the rules of the spatial distribution of the resolutions
of governmental strategies for socioeconomic development, primarily the distribution
of the planned public investment projects of national significance. The document thus
contains the spatial instructions referring to many aspects of public authority. Among other
aspects, it regulates the principles of urban policy, direction of rural area development,
distribution of technical infrastructure, and other public facilities of national significance as
well as areas significant from the perspective of environmental protection or preservation of
cultural heritage resources [
89
] (Article 32). The programme comprises spatial development
scenarios (along with a graphic model of the arrangement of space) and action programmes
encompassing, among others, investment projects, methods of financing the proposed
actions, and their timetable. The programme may also lay down a development framework
for other instruments of territorial management [89] (Article 33).
PNPOT is drawn up by the Council of Ministers with the participation of the espe-
cially appointed Consultation Commission (Portuguese comissãoconsultiva), whose members
include local government representatives. The commission may submit comments and ob-
jections to the draft programme. An opinion of the draft programme is also issued by the
National Territory Commission (Portuguese Comissão Nacional do Território), a body subor-
dinated to the minister responsible for spatial planning. What is more, the draft PNPOT is a
subject of public discussion for at least 30 days. However, the final version of the programme
is approved by the government and then adopted as legislation [89] (Article 34–38).
At the national level, NRJIGT also indicates sectoral programmes (Portuguese pro-
gramassectoriais) [
89
] (Article 2), whose implementation can have effects of a spatial
character. Sectoral programmes primarily concern public tasks within the remit of the
government (e.g., environmental protection, water resources, forests, transport, and com-
munications) [
88
] (Article 40). These programmes are prepared by the relevant ministers
and approved by the government. During their preparation, the government obtains the
opinion of the appropriate CCDR, CIM, or municipalities, and then initiates a period of
public discussion (not shorter than 20 days) [89] (Articles 46, 48, 50, and 51).
Special programmes (Portuguese programasespeciais) are another type of documents
at the national level. They are fundamentally concerned with the protection of the public
interest in areas of special spatial value. They are drawn up for the sea coast, protected
areas, public waters, and estuaries, and they contain mainly prohibitions and restrictions
on territorial management [
88
] (Article 40). Special programmes are prepared by govern-
ment administration but with relatively significant participation of other actors, namely,
a specially appointed consultation committee, consisting primarily of representatives of
organisations and institutions involved in areas covered by the programme. The National
Territory Commission has the power to resolve any disagreements between the govern-
ment administration drawing up the programme and the participants in the process of its
Land 2022,11, 73 10 of 21
preparation. When the work on preparing the programme is completed, a public discussion
also takes place. Similar to sectoral programmes, special programmes are approved by the
council of ministers [89] (Article 49–50).
3.2. Planning at the Regional Level
Spatial planning at the regional level in Poland is represented almost exclusively
by planning by the voivodeship government. Its executive body (i.e., the marshal of
the voivodeship) prepares a draft, and the voivodeship assembly approves the spatial
development plan for the voivodeship (Polish plan zagospodarowania przestrzennegowo-
jewództwa (PZPW)) [
86
] (Article 41–42). This plan defines the basic elements of the
voivodeship’s spatial structure, including the basic elements of the settlement system
in a given voivodeship together with the transport and infrastructure links, protected
areas (including the natural and cultural aspects), and the location of major public invest-
ment projects of supralocal importance. A PZPW may include a development plan for a
functional area of a city, which is the seat the voivodeship’s central government or local
government [86] (Article 39).
A PZPW must take into account the general national interest. Previously, this was
achieved by considering the provisions of the national spatial development concept (cur-
rently the provisions of the medium-term national development strategy (´
SSRK)) as well
as government investment project programmes [
86
,
94
] (Article 39). Furthermore, every
interested entity may submit an appropriate proposal to the draft plan, although it is the
marshal of voivodeship who determines how to proceed with such a proposal. County
and municipal governments and special central government administration bodies located
within a specific voivodeship or neighbouring area also have the right to express their
opinion on the prepared draft plan. The draft spatial development plan for a voivodeship
is also evaluated by the voivodeship’s urban planning and architectural commission made
up of professionals. However, the opinions of the commission are of a purely advisory
nature [86] (Article 41).
At the voivodeship level, a landscape audit (Polish audyt krajobrazowy) is also carried
out to identify and assess the value of landscapes occurring in a given voivodeship as well
as to provide recommendations concerning the protection of landscapes. The procedure
of conducting an audit is slightly different. The draft audit is reviewed and agreed upon
by specialised government institutions and municipal governments, and is presented for
public inspection. The voivodeship government decides whether to consider the opinions,
and the audit is adopted by the voivodeship assembly [86] (Article 38–38b).
Spatial planning at the regional level in Portugal is currently represented by regional
programmes (Portuguese programasregionais), prepared for NUTS 2 areas (within the remit
of a CCDR). A CCDR may propose that the programme is prepared at the CIM level [
89
,
96
]
(Article 52). Pursuant to Article 79 of LBGPPSOTU, Regional Spatial Development Plans
(Portuguese Plano Regional de Ordenamento do Território (PROT)), prepared and approved
based on Decreto-Lei No. 380/99, remain in force until they are amended or revised [
88
].
PROT defined the organisation model of a territory. They took into account arrangements
concerning the structure of the urban system and infrastructure of regional importance,
environmental protection, and cultural heritage preservation issues, among other issues.
They also indicated objectives concerning the location of the main public investment
projects and arrangements appearing, for example, in a PNPOT [
97
] (Article 53), thus
adapting national guidelines to the characteristics of the region [
14
]. At present, regional
programmes contain similar arrangements as a PROT. They indicate the scope of operation
(at the regional level) specified in a PNPOT and previously existing plans and programmes,
among other documents [89] (Article 54).
The preparation of a regional programme is within the remit of a CCDR under the
supervision of state authorities responsible for spatial planning. The process of preparing a
draft programme is supervised by a consultation committee made up of representatives of
relevant government administrations. The commission is of a consultative nature, and any
Land 2022,11, 73 11 of 21
disagreements between its members (entities) and the CCDR are resolved by the National
Territory Commission. Regional programmes are approved by way of resolution of the
Council of Ministers [89] (Article 56–60).
3.3. Planning at the Intermunicipal Level
County government in Poland has no autonomous powers in this field and, therefore,
is not an active player in spatial planning. A county may only prepare nonbinding “analyses
and studies concerning spatial development” and may be consulted and asked for opinions
about planning documents prepared by the voivodeship and municipal government. At the
initiative of the municipalities concerned, it may establish a county urban planning and ar-
chitectural commission serving as an advisory body in municipalities that do not have their
own commissions of this kind [
86
,
98
]. The status of a metropolitan association in the sphere
of spatial planning, despite the statutory declaration about its role in spatial policy [
86
]
(Article 3), is similar to the status of counties. Pursuant to the most recent amendment of the
2020 Act on Spatial Planning and Development, already mentioned above, a metropolitan
association no longer has to prepare a framework study on the conditions and directions
for spatial development of the metropolitan association (Polish ramowestudiumuwarunk-
owa´nikierunkówzagospodarowaniaprzestrzennegozwi ˛azkumetropolitalnego) [
86
,
94
,
99
].
At present, a metropolitan association may prepare a metropolitan development strategy
(Polish strategia rozwoju metropolitalnego) that establishes the model of the functional
and spatial structure, among other things [
56
,
58
]. Despite more than 30 years of municipal
self-government, the numerous intermunicipal associations and communities rarely engage
in joint actions with respect to spatial planning. This is largely a result of the lack of
legislative regulations in this respect.
In Portugal, one can clearly observe a stronger standing of entities situated between
the regional and municipal levels, which is also reflected in the sphere of spatial planning.
Metropolitan associations and intermunicipal alliances have various instruments at their
disposal to influence spatial development. An intermunicipal programme (Portuguese
programa intermunicipal (PI)) is a strategic document at the intermunicipal level. It can
be prepared for an entire intermunicipal entity or for at least two neighbouring munici-
palities within such an entity [
88
,
89
] (NRJIGT, Article 61; LBGPPSOTU, Article 42). An
intermunicipal programme must be consistent with the regional programme [
88
] (Article
44); the subject matter of both programmes is similar. It identifies the key elements of a
spatial structure, such as the layout of roads and technical infrastructure systems, and
standards of protection of valuable spatial values. The programme also contains guidelines
for intermunicipal and municipal spatial development plans. It also contains a timetable
for the implementation of the planned public investment projects, along with an estimate
of their costs and an indication of the sources of financing [89] (Article 63–64).
An intermunicipal programme is drawn up by the executive body of a CIM or AM.
A consultation committee works during the preparation of its draft, and a public debate
on the draft is conducted. The programme is approved by representative bodies—an
intermunicipal assembly (Portuguese assembleia intermunicipal) or a metropolitan council
(Portuguese conselhometropolitano) [89] (Article 65–68).
At the intermunicipal level, there are three optional studies of a regulatory character:
Intermunicipal general plan (Portuguese plano diretor intermunicipal (PDI));
Intermunicipal urbandevelopment plan (Portuguese plano de urbanização intermu-
nicipal (PUI));
Intermunicipal detailed plan (Portuguese plano de pormenor intermunicipal (PPI)) [
88
] (Article 42).
These documents primarily describe the system of land use. A special competence
of intermunicipal plans (on a par with municipal plans) is the division of land into “rural
areas” (i.e., those associated with agriculture, livestock breeding, and forestry as well as the
protection of valuable natural and cultural areas) and “urban areas” (i.e., totally or partially
urbanised or built-up areas). “Rural” land may be converted into “urban” only by way
of exception, and the new “urban area” status is valid only for a period specified in the
Land 2022,11, 73 12 of 21
detailed plan, after which a land not used for urbanisation purposes returns to its “rural”
status [88,89] (LBGPPSOTU Article 10; NRJIGT Article 71–72).
A PDI, having a central role at the intermunicipal level, provides the framework for
the application of the other intermunicipal and municipal plans. What is more, munic-
ipalities covered by this plan are exempt from the obligation to prepare similar munic-
ipal plans [
88
,
89
] (LBGPPSOTU Article 42; NRJIGT Article 27). At the same time, the
plan must be essentially consistent with the governmental spatial plans in particular. It
presents an intermunicipal territorial model and the location of local public buildings,
among other things [
88
,
89
] (LBGPPSOTU Article 44; NRJIGT Article 112–113). A draft
intermunicipal plan is prepared by a commission established for this purpose by the
councils of the municipalities involved or—if the plan encompasses the entire intermu-
nicipal unit—by a metropolitan executive committee in the case of an AM (Portuguese
comissãoexecutivametropolitana) and an intermunicipal council in a CIM (Portuguese con-
selho intermunicipal). The plans are adopted by councils of the municipalities concerned or
a metropolitan council/intermunicipal assembly if the plan covers all the municipalities of
an intermunicipal unit. The principles related to a PUI and PPI are similar to the analogous
plans at the municipal level, after some necessary adaptation [89] (Article 111–114).
3.4. Planning at the Local Level
Both the Polish and Portuguese spatial planning systems award the key powers con-
cerning the development of space to the lowest tier of local government. Plans drawn
up by local authorities are most frequently the direct basis for the implementation of new
spatial development. In Poland, the main responsibility in this respect rests with the munic-
ipality. The municipal government prepares two types of documents, each with a distinct
status and legal consequences, namely, a spatial development conditions and directions
study of a municipality (Polish studium uwarunkowa´n i kierunków zagospodarowania
przestrzennego gminy (studium)) and a local spatial development plan (Polish miejscowy
plan zagospodarowania przestrzennego—(mpzp)).
The former document, encompassing—by law—the entire territory of a given mu-
nicipality, is prepared to formulate the basic directions of local spatial policy because it
identifies the key elements of local space in accordance with the spatial policy of the central
government and voivodeship government. It also has to take into account the principles of
supramunicipal spatial planning. The studium primarily provides for the following:
The purpose and manner of development of individual areas, including areas excluded
from building development;
Areas placed under protection due to their natural or cultural assets, along with the
rules of this protection;
Directions of the development of technical infrastructure and transport system;
Areas where public investment projects of a local or supralocal character will be implemented;
Areas for which mpzp will be prepared because, for example, these areas are intended
for the construction of large commercial facilities, or because of the anticipated changes
in the ownership structure of properties (consolidation and division) [86] (Article 9–10).
A studium is not an instrument of local law and, therefore, does not have a direct
influence on the possibilities of developing individual properties by their holders. How-
ever, the provisions of a studium must be considered by the municipal authorities in the
subsequently prepared mpzp. Therefore, the preparation of a studium is accompanied by
a procedure ensuring that all the stakeholders can communicate and then, if necessary,
defend their interests. Within this procedure, the municipal government announces the
commencement of work on the studium and the possibility for natural persons, institutions
economic entities, and so forth to submit proposals concerning the way of developing spe-
cific areas. The municipal government also consults the draft studium with the voivodeship
government. The draft studium is also presented for public inspection so that citizens can
submit comments, and a public discussion on the document is conducted. The validity of
Land 2022,11, 73 13 of 21
these comments is assessed and decided by the municipal authorities themselves (i.e., the
municipal council) [86] (Article 9,11).
The local spatial development plan (mpzp) prepared by the municipal government
is the key spatial development instrument in the Polish legal system. The plan is the
only planning document to have the status of a legal act and serves as the direct basis for
issuing building permits. However, the preparation of the mpzp for the whole territory
of a municipality is not obligatory. It should be prepared for areas designated for public
purposes or large commercial facilities as well as areas where property consolidation and
division is to be conducted. The mpzp must take into account the arrangements in the
studium, making them more specific as appropriate. The scope of matters regulated by the
plan is relatively broad and contains the following in particular:
Designation of land use and principles of building development (building lines, di-
mensions of buildings, building intensity, etc.);
Areas where building is prohibited;
Rules of protecting the environment, landscape, and cultural heritage;
Rules of property division;
Rules of building and modernising roads and technical infrastructure systems [
86
]
(Article 14–15).
Although a local plan is one of the responsibilities of a municipality, it has to take
the interests of other public entities into consideration. The voivodeship and county gov-
ernment as well as several central government bodies have the right to consult the draft
plan. The consultation of the draft with regard to issues related to the responsibilities of the
individual bodies is the condition for the plan to come into force. The voivodeship govern-
ment also has the right to expect the municipal spatial development (mpzp) to conform
to the spatial development plan for the voivodeship (PZPW). However, a municipality
may demand financial compensation from the voivodeship government for introducing
the provisions of the PZPW to the mpzp. Entities other than public administration bodies,
including natural persons, also have the right to influence the content of the plan. When
the draft mpzp is being prepared, the date of presenting the draft for public inspection and
submitting it to public debate is announced [86] (Article 17).
There is a special type of local plan, namely, a local revitalisation plan (Polish miejs-
cowy plan rewitalizacji), which is optional and prepared for areas covered by a municipal
revitalisation programme. The scope of its provisions is expanded in relation to a “stan-
dard” mpzp. They include prohibitions and restrictions on commercial or service activities,
as well as detailed rules concerning the development of public spaces or the organisation
of road traffic [86] (Article 37f–37g).
As already mentioned above, according to Polish law, spatial planning may also be imple-
mented in areas not covered by an mpzp. In such a situation, administrative decisions issued
by heads of municipalities are the basis for building permits. These decisions (with a slightly
different content in the case of public and private investment projects) primarily contain
provisions resulting from the legal regulations concerning the proposed investment project
and its proposed location. Private projects may be carried out according to this procedure only
within existing built-up areas or in their immediate vicinity. Decisions enabling investment
projects in areas not covered by local plans must be consulted with all the administrative
bodies concerned (especially central administration bodies). What is important, however, is
that they do not have to be consistent with the studium [86] (Article 60–61).
In Portugal, local planning is the responsibility of municipalities. The Portuguese
system of spatial planning at the municipal level is more complex and involves more
significant powers than is the case in the Polish system. The basic document prepared
for the entire area of a municipality is the general spatial development plan (Portuguese
planodiretor municipal (PDM)) [
100
], which defines the general principles of development.
This plan is obligatory except for areas covered by a similar intermunicipal plan. Further-
more, a municipality can draw up an urbanisation plan (Portuguese plano de urbanização
(PU)) and detailed plans (Portuguese plano de pormenor (PP)) through which a PDM is
Land 2022,11, 73 14 of 21
implemented [
88
,
89
] (LBGPPSOTU Article 43; NRJIGT Article 95). Similar to a PDM, if a
given municipality is already encompassed by an intermunicipal plan (PUI or PPI), the
municipality does not prepare a plan of the same kind just for its own territory [
88
,
89
]
(LBGPPSOTU Article 44; NRJIGT Article 27).
A PDM, similar to other plans prepared by a municipality, must conform to the
regional programme and programmes prepared by the central administration [
88
] (Article
44). A PDM is approved by a municipal assembly (Portuguese assembleia municipal).
However, if its provisions are not consistent with sectoral, special, or regional programmes,
a proposal for its ratification can be submitted. This ratification implies an amendment
of the above programmes so that they reflect the current situation. This occurs only in
exceptional cases [89] (Article 90–91).
The provisions of a general plan cover a broad range of matters. For example, it defines:
Permitted functions of areas;
Criteria of location and development of industrial, service, commercial, and tourist activity;
Indices to be specified in the PU and PP;
The rules of protecting special values of space;
The form of road and technical infrastructure.
However, alongside these “classic” provisions, a general plan also contains provisions
defining ways of achieving the proposed form of local space. For example, it specifies the
rules of expropriation for public purposes, a programme for the implementation of public
investment projects, and even a financial plan. A general plan also contains a timetable of
actions to be taken [89] (Article 96–97).
A consultation commission works during the preparation of a PDM. It is coordinated
by the appropriate CCDR, whose members include the representatives of the central
administration, an autonomous region, or intermunicipal units. The opinion presented
by the commission concerns the compliance of the PDM with the law and the applicable
programmes [
89
] (Article 83,85). Public participation is ensured through a public debate
lasting at least 30 days. The proposals submitted during this debate are reviewed by the
municipal council, which has the right to reject proposals that do not comply with the law
or spatial programmes and plans [89] (Article 89).
An urbanisation plan implements the provisions of a general plan. It may be prepared
for urban areas indicated in the applicable PDM and, if required by an integrated planning
intervention, in the supplementary rural areas. A PU may also encompass industrial,
service, or tourist areas. Furthermore, the land use regime should be determined in a PU for
the administration centre of a municipality and areas inhabited by at least
25,000 people
. An
urbanisation plan defines the functions (residential, service, commercial, tourist, industrial,
and waste management) and the rules of developing particular parts of an area as well as
the form of the road, transport, and technical infrastructure network. It also indicates the
location of areas and facilities with a public function as well as areas requiring regeneration
and revitalisation. A PU also includes an execution programme and financing plan [
89
]
(Article 98–100).
The content scope of a detailed plan is evidently broader than in the case of an urbani-
sation plan. Alongside defining the functions of areas and rules of spatial development, a
detailed plan determines a whole range of future actions of a given municipality (e.g., the
rules of public space management and the timetable of public investment project imple-
mentation). A PP establishes the rules of performing urban planning work, indicates space
designated for road and pedestrian traffic as well a green areas, and defines the urban
planning parameters, such as the number of floors and building height [89] (Article 102).
A detailed plan may come in three special forms, as required by local needs: a plan of
intervention in rural areas (Portuguese plano de intervenção no espaçorústico), a detailed plan
of city revitalisation (Portuguese plano de pormenor de reabilitaçãourbana), and a detailed
protection plan (Portuguese plano de pormenor de salvaguarda). An intervention plan,
prepared for rural areas, primarily establishes the rules of planning and transforming, if
necessary, the existing state of spatial development. It also establishes the mechanisms for
Land 2022,11, 73 15 of 21
the protection of a natural and cultural landscape. However, such a plan may not change
the purpose of a land from “rural” to “urban”. A detailed revitalisation plan is prepared
for historic centres, whose boundaries are indicated by the previously prepared PDM or PU
or urban revitalisation areas. Similarly, a detailed protection plan concerns areas of special
historic and cultural value indicated in the appropriate legal regulations [
89
] (Article 103–106).
The procedure for preparing an urbanisation plan and a detailed plan is similar. Similar
to a general plan, they are prepared by a municipal administration. When drawing up the
plan, a given municipality asks the appropriate CCDR for its opinion on the plan (Article 86).
Residents of the municipality interested in the draft plan may participate in a public debate,
which has to last for at least 20 days. However, the submitted objections to the draft plan are
resolved by the municipal council, which then approves the plan [89] (Article 89).
4. Discussion
Poland and Portugal are, as mentioned above, very similar countries despite the con-
siderable geographical distance between them and their different size. They are at a similar
level of socioeconomic development, their societies have a similar cultural profile, and both
countries became free from authoritarian (Portugal) or outright totalitarian (Poland) rule
relatively recently. At present, both Poland and Portugal are democracies where civic rights
and ownership are respected. Thus public authorities in both countries have a similar scope
of authority.
All these similarities notwithstanding, the possibilities of representing public interest
in the spatial planning system turn out to be completely different. It is self-explanatory that
the structure of spatial planning entities in Poland and Portugal reflects the administrative
structure of either country. In general, it is based on four tiers: national, regional, supralocal,
and local. The distribution of powers between these tiers is noticeably different in either
country. In Poland, the key role is played by the local tier, which, by its very nature,
must take both the public and private interest in planning decisions. This results from
the fact that documents prepared by a municipality determine, directly or indirectly, the
possibilities of developing specific areas. The supralocal (county) level plays an entirely
marginal role because it does not have any planning powers as such. The content of
documents at the voivodeship and national levels is intrinsically focused on public issues,
but these documents have a rather complementary role with regard to their subject matter.
It is significant that Polish spatial planning documents are focused on a strictly defined
assignment of functions, with different levels of generalisation. In addition, local documents
establish the rules of spatial development. The problem of implementing the adopted
provisions appears only in governmental programmes, but the scope of their provisions is
limited to specific domains.
The Portuguese realities are slightly different, although the municipality also is of
key significance there. The municipality exclusively prepares plans that may directly
provide the basis for issuing building permits. These plans, with a similar legal status,
vary depending on the area they are concerned with. The powers at the supramunicipal
level are similar to those at the municipal level because the former has a complementary
and sometimes substitutive role in relation to the latter. Thus, the interactions between
the public and private interest must be taken into consideration also by supralocal entities.
The regional level, on the other hand—except for autonomous regions—is primarily an
extension of the national level. The powers at the governmental level are based on the
structure of documents, which is generally similar to their Polish counterparts: a document
of a general character and specialised documents. They are all used to manifest the
public interest, but the structure of these documents is much more complex and their
content is much broader. It can also be observed that at each level, the subject of spatial
planning in Portugal is broader than in Poland. Basically, all documents identify (at
various levels of aggregation) the functions of the particular areas or centres as well
as the distribution of the applicable public investment projects. Local and supralocal
documents and, to a certain extent, regional documents and even some governmental
Land 2022,11, 73 16 of 21
documents also establish the rules of spatial development. Furthermore, a programme
for the implementation of public investment projects and even a financial plan are often
included in their provisions. The shape of Polish spatial planning, in its current form,
is a kind of reaction to the planning system functioning in the communist period. At
that time, spatial planning was hierarchical in nature and unconditionally favoured the
public interest. At the same time, as private property was poorly respected, this resulted in
large areas being allocated for public purposes (including the then state-owned economy)
while limiting investment opportunities for the private sector. The political transformation
in 1989 and the establishment of municipal self-government the following year caused
the pendulum to swing the other way [
101
]. The actual rank of the public interest is not
only influenced by the provisions of the spatial plans and planning documents. Equally
important are the relationships between documents manifesting the public interest of
varying ranks (particularly local and central or regional) as well as those that also take
private interest into account. To a large extent, a municipality in Poland is autonomous
with regard to spatial planning. In particular, a local plan—the only document in Poland’s
spatial planning system to have the status of a legal act—may be prepared without taking
supramunicipal spatial planning into consideration. Considering a voivodeship spatial
development plan in a local plan is obligatory only if an entity in the voivodeship plan meets
several financial criteria. A voivodeship plan must be taken into account by a municipal
development study (studium). However, due to the far-reaching difference of the scale
between these documents (the number of municipalities in individual voivodeships ranges
from about 100 to about 300), it is difficult and ineffective to disaggregate the provisions
of a voivodeship plan and apply them to a particular part of a municipality. On the other
hand, a hierarchy actually existed between the government’s national spatial development
concept and a voivodeship spatial development plan. However, in the light of the weakness
of voivodeship plans, this hierarchy had little significance for including the public interest
in documents providing the basis for building permits.
The situation in Portugal is essentially different. As in a regional economic planning
approach, public investments are highly ranged [
20
]. A far-reaching hierarchy of spatial
planning is a fundamental factor. Thus documents prepared by entities at a lower level
must take into account the provisions of documents previously adopted by entities at higher
levels of territorial division. This primarily concerns public-interest-related considerations
included in the provisions of governmental (central and regional) spatial development
programmes and reflected in supramunicipal or municipal plans. Although there is a
procedure enabling the preparation of plans inconsistent with higher-ranking programmes,
in this case, the approval of entities in these programmes is required.
Spatial planning in both countries is also an arena where the public and private
interest clash. This primarily applies, of course, to planning at the local level, related
to specific properties, and providing a direct basis for the development of a particular
space. The private interest may influence the form of planning documents through a
mechanism of public participation, guaranteed by law, during the preparation of drafts of
these documents. In both Poland and Portugal, private entities have a range of possibilities
to communicate their proposals. In Portugal, however, this is also possible in the case of
programmes prepared at the regional and central levels. In both systems, the final decision
on the approval of proposals submitted by private individuals and entities rests with the
entities preparing the specific documents.
However, there are differences in the actual impact of the private interest on the
spatial planning entities, including the possibility for these entities to oppose the claims
and demands of private entities, which is based on the necessity to protect the public
interest, particularly with regard to intangible values (e.g., spatial order and landscape). It
seems that municipalities in Poland have more limited possibilities in this respect than their
Portuguese counterparts, which stems from two reasons. First of all, most of the Polish
municipalities cover a small area and have a small population (sometimes even smaller
than 5000 people). In structures of this type, it is relatively easy for even relatively weak
Land 2022,11, 73 17 of 21
pressure groups (e.g., property owners or potential investors) to exert strong and effective
pressure on the local government. What is more, given the above-mentioned lack of a real
hierarchy in spatial planning, municipal authorities are in a situation of a “lone guardian”
of the public interest. In Portugal, where an average municipality covers a larger area and
is subject to pressure from higher levels of public administration, it is much more difficult
to advance the private interest.
It can be assumed that the efficacy of representing the public interest in spatial plan-
ning is largely the inverse of its sensitivity to the private interest. Thus, to make some
generalisations about spatial planning systems in terms of the role of spatial planning
as an instrument for representing the public interest, it must be said that despite numer-
ous similarities between the two systems, there are some far-reaching, even fundamental,
differences between Poland and Portugal.
Poland’s spatial planning system can be described as a disintegrated liberal system.
When the public interest is weighed against the private interest, the former generally holds
a stronger position. Within the domain of the public interest, local interest, particularly
associated with specific municipal investment projects, is most effectively represented.
Against this background, the Portuguese system can be described as hierarchical and
coherent, and thus totally different from the Polish system. In Portugal, the public interest,
especially of a supralocal nature, enjoys a stronger position than the private interest. This
undoubtedly applies not only to public investment projects but also to intangible values
protected by spatial planning, such as landscape values and spatial order.
The relatively long period of membership of both countries in the European Union has
not been reflected to a greater extent in the spatial planning systems of Poland and Portugal.
Above all, it has not affected the similarity between these systems to a greater extent than
currently observed. It is significant that since the 1990s, EU institutions have been trying,
in a manner not formally binding, to set out the principles of planning to integrate spatially
different levels of development policy, Ref. [
18
]. Therefore, it seems that the EU cohesion
policy has a more significant impact on the Portuguese, than, as COMPASS [
10
], on the
Polish spatial planning system. Thus, G. Cotella may be right [
102
], who assesses that
the ways in which public authorities in EU countries interact with space are increasingly
diverse after 2000. This opinion coincides with the statement of A. Faludi [
103
] that the
influence of the EU on the spatial planning of the member states has slowed down in recent
years, although it continues through the mechanisms of the European cohesion policy.
The persistent differences in planning systems, illustrated by the example of Poland
and Portugal, may also lead to the conclusion (as, e.g., suggested by Reimer, Getimis, and
Blotevogel [
9
]) that adaptation processes, due to their legislative and cultural nature, are
complex and slow. Hence, it is difficult to clearly assess them as convergence or divergence
over a period of several years. At the same time, as T. Purkarthofer [
104
] suggests, EU
policies primarily influence the “soft” mechanisms of spatial planning. This influence is
therefore perhaps more noticeable in the sphere of planning culture rather than legislative
solutions. However, this is an issue that deserves separate research.
5. Conclusions
The reasons for these far-reaching differences can be found in the spatial planning
systems themselves as well as beyond them. Key internal factors are the relations between
various actors in spatial planning: in either country, different actors hold a stronger position.
The set of instruments for the implementation of these plans is worth noting from the
perspective of the system; these instruments are derived from the placement of spatial
planning in the whole system of public management. In both countries, spatial planning
documents are implemented by introducing their provisions in documents of lower rank
in the structure of territorial division. The process ends with building permits issued
based on documents of the lowest rank and having the status of a legal regulation. In
Portugal, the instruments for the implementation of spatial planning also include public
investment projects and sometimes also public property management. The very spatial
Land 2022,11, 73 18 of 21
development plans and programmes very frequently establish the rules of applying these
instruments and indicate the sources of financing. Thanks to this mechanism, the claims of
public entities towards space are toned down (sometimes even restricted), and at the same
time, their position in relation to spatial planning is strengthened. Furthermore, as already
mentioned above, the actors in Portugal’s spatial planning system, due to its systemic and
territorial nature, seem to be less susceptible than their Polish counterparts to pressure
from private interest groups.
The analysed case studies and their experiences may be an interesting indication for
governments that contend with the problem of a strong private interest. Results may allow
for elaborating the recommendations for spatial policies in the context of enforcement of
the public interest. Of course, regardless of the spatial planning mechanisms and their
place in the system of public authority, the decisive criterion of the efficacy of planning
in representing the public interest is the form and character of transformations of spatial
development. However, this problem would require separate multifaceted research.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualisation, W.A.G.-W., K.T.; methodology, W.A.G.-W., K.T.; analysis,
W.A.G.-W., K.T.; investigation, W.A.G.-W., K.T.; writing preparation and visualisation, W.A.G.-W.,
K.T. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Institutional Review Board Statement: Not applicable.
Informed Consent Statement: Not applicable.
Data Availability Statement: Not applicable.
Acknowledgments:
The authors wish to thank anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments
and suggestions for improving the quality of this paper and A. Z. Warchoł for proofreading.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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