Denmark, Norway and Switzerland show the way to digital plan data in spatial planning

Do you know the possibilities offered by digital plan data and their actual use in spatial planning? Denmark, Norway and Switzerland have asked ESPON to find evidence and elaborate policy recommendations on this topic.

Last week in Copenhagen, at the Danish Business Authority premises, experts, researchers, policy makers gathered together to kick-off DIGIPLAN, a brand new ESPON targeted analysis that will support the policy needs of Denmark, Norway and Switzerland on digitalization initiatives in the field of planning data.

Denmark is one of the pioneers in the digitalisation of spatial planning. Since 2006, following a reform restructuring municipalities and region, Denmark has an official, countrywide digital plan register, an open geodatabase including e.g. over 34,000 effective local development plans. All plans made within the framework of the plan law have to be registered. The scope and quality of the plan data has increased significantly in the past two years because the data is used for a new property tax system that is under development.

In Norway the government has committed itself in 2015 to focus on digitalization and formulated goals for full digital plan registers in all municipalities, The focus is on supporting the vertical dimension of zoning plans and digital provisions, better and clearer context between the map (the land use plan) and the provision – to enable faster decisions. Norway has used a common standard for all the zoning plan maps for many years, and that makes the analysis of this issue easier.

In Switzerland the government has adopted a digitalisation strategy in 2016 and 2018, which supports the further digitalisation of plan data, especially in the framework of the Smart City/Regions initiatives. Furthermore, Switzerland being a federal State, all Swiss cantons have set up their own cartographic portals dedicated to spatial development in addition to the actions taken at national level.

At the kick-off meeting of ESPON DIGIPLAN on 16 January 2020 the stakeholders highlighted the importance of learning from other countries and experience. Denmark, Norway and Switzerland aim to gain greater knowledge on digitalization in order to use it in connection with deliberations on future digitalization initiatives in the field of planning data.

Bent Lindhardt Andersen from the Danish Business Authority, which is the lead stakeholder of DIGIPLAN, explained that Denmark will use the outcomes of the research to inform the evaluation of recent changes in the planning law and other spatial policies, e.g. the national planning act, the development of the digital plan register, etc.

Hilde Johansen Bakken, from the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation of Norway, is looking for the outcome of DIGIPLAN in order to provide guidelines and support to local and regional authorities. 

Silvia Jost, from the Swiss Federal Office of Spatial Development ARE, said that DIGIPLAN shall aim at further inform the evaluation of building activities in and outside planning zones, monitoring of zoned and built-up land as well as development of related spatial policies.

University of Copenhagen will coordinate the implementation of DIGIPLAN in team with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Nordregio and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL. The experts will look into the approaches across national planning systems including methods for evaluation with plan data and how planning is actually represented in such data. The research shall include examples and good practices of twelve other EU countries in order to benefit from a wider scope.

Piera Petruzzi, from the ESPON EGTC, underlined that DIGIPLAN will open space for policy makers and experts in all European countries to benefit from the analysis and also reflect on the scope of digitalisation of plan data, the organization, the financing and the potential uses of digital planning data.

ESPON targeted analyses are powerful means to transfer knowledge, share experience and facilitate the use of territorial evidence rooted in real place-based policy development processes. They provide a European perspective for stakeholders and are related to their policy contexts.

ESPON DIGIPLAN team will meet again in February in Copenhagen to discuss the first delivery (inception report).

Further information