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Strengthening participation processes in spatial planning

How to help municipalities build awareness of the society on spatial development?

CHALLENGE DESCRIPTION The main problem that was defined at the local level of spatial planning in Poland was the insufficient involvement of residents and experts in the spatial planning process at the local level, which resulted in low awareness of the effects of the decisions made. It concerned the local level (municipalities throughout the country). In accordance with the regulations in force regarding the spatial planning system in Poland, the possibility of involving the public in the planning process is at the stage preceding the work (application submission) and then submitting comments and taking part in the discussion when the draft plan is ready. This mode of involvement is ineffective as the society often does not have enough knowledge to consciously take part in the process. The institution’s participation is at the stage of submitting applications and then giving opinions on the finished project. This does not allow for discussion or explanations between institutions and the designer, and often adopted solutions are not based on an in-depth analysis of the situation and possible solutions. As a result, decisions were made regarding the implementation of investments that adversely contributed to water management in rural areas – e.g. too frequent allocation of agricultural land for construction purposes, construction in flood risk areas, liquidation of drainage system devices within real estate areas. The problem related to the process concerned communes – responsible for planning at the local level – indirectly planners commissioned by communes and the inhabitants themselves – including representatives of their commune councilors, whose decisions are adopted in planning documents.

DESCRIPTION OF THE SOLUTION The direct reason for introducing the solution was the need to improve the interaction between the actors of the process: the commune (organizer of the process) and the inhabitants, planner, institutions. The Ministry of Investment and Development launched the program Strengthening investment and construction processes and spatial planning (under the Operational Program Knowledge, Education and Development 2014-2020, co-financed by the European Social Fund). As part of this process, through non-governmental organizations, municipalities received support for conducting in-depth consultation activities in the ongoing planning processes. Communes from all over the country could join the project, which showed that they needed support. As part of the support, they received: training in the field of participation for people responsible for this process in the commune, the opportunity to participate in networking meetings (with other communes with similar problems), a grant for organizing participatory activities (organization of meetings, preparation of educational materials, involvement of experts, etc.). Additionally, they received the support of a consultant (for the duration of the process – the process lasted from a few months to about a year). The consultant helped the municipalities to develop the IPK (individual consultation plan) and to organize the process.

POSSIBILITY OF ADAPTING THE SOLUTION Carrying out the process in Polish communes (including – rural communes taking up challenges in the field of spatial management in agricultural areas) allowed to increase the awareness of the local community regarding the impact of planning decisions on the condition of the environment – including water resources. It also allowed for the involvement of experts in the planning process at the local level – including in the field of ecosystem functioning, which allowed to improve the work of all actors involved in the process, in the case of real estate owners – helped to understand the need to reduce investment pressure. Ultimately, this solution may help make a legislative change – in the field of national policy regarding planning at the local level – increase the catalog of obligatory activities in the field of social participation in spatial planning (as well as other processes that are the responsibility of the commune).

Authors of the solution description:Małgorzata Grodzicka-Kowalczyk, Pheno Horizon
State of implementation of the solution:1st edition completed in 2018; second edition in progress