Land use planning

Land use planning creates the preconditions for a sound and vital residential and living environment. Well-considered land planning solutions and a functional, seamless urban structure and traffic arrangements generate well-being and vitality, while supporting sustainable development.

General guidance for land use planning is based on Land Use and Building Act. Regional and municipal planning are directed by national land use guidelines. These national guidelines are given a more specific and concrete form in regional and municipal plans and planning decisions.

The land use planning system includes

  • national land use guidelines
  • land use plans: regional land use plan, local master plan, local detailed plan
  • regional schemes and programmes, regional and municipal strategies
  • municipalities' land policy and building ordinances.
  • Land Use and Building Act

National land use guidelines

The government sets national land use guidelines. The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the related preparations. 

Regional plan and land use planning

Regional planning includes

  • the regional scheme
  • the regional plan
  • the regional development programme.

The regional plan is a map prepared according to the Land Use and Building Act, displaying the region's land use and community structure plans. It outlines building and environmental development in the coming decades. The regional plan provides instructions on municipal land use planning and other official activities which affect land use.  Regional plans are drawn up and confirmed by the regional councils.

The Land Use and Building Act lays down the content requirements of the regional plan.

Municipal land use planning

Several factors impact on municipal land use policies (land use plans and land policy). These include actual land use planning processes and other land use planning, as well as industrial, social and housing policy. Municipalities' land use planning instruments include the following, for example:

  • land use strategies and programmes within the municipality
  • a local master plan and a local detailed plan
  • land policy
  • building ordinance.

The local master plan directs the preparation of local detailed plans

The regional plan defines how land is used in the region. The local master plan lays down the objectives of land use in the municipality. It outlines general development in the municipality, and the use of the land area it covers, for example the location of residential areas, places of employment and traffic routes. It is possible to prepare a partial master plan for areas such as shores. Such a plan may be more detailed than the local master plan.

Each municipality is responsible for preparing a local master plan. This plan is approved by the municipal council. If municipalities prepare a shared local master plan, it will be approved by the municipalities' common organ and confirmed by the Ministry of the Environment. The Land Use and Building Act lays down content requirements for the local master plan.

The local master plan is used as the basis for the preparation of local detailed plans. 

Building activity is directed by the local detailed plan

A local detailed plan is the most detailed level of all land use plans. It directs land use and building according to the requirements set by local conditions, the townscape and the landscape, good building practices and other agreed objectives.

A local detailed plan lays out the organisation of land use and building within the municipality. It defines the future use of the area it covers: what will be conserved and what may be built, where and how. For example, it defines the location, size and purpose of buildings.

Local detailed plans are prepared by the municipality in question. Building in shore areas can be based on a detailed shore plan, prepared by the land owner. The Land Use and Building Act lays down content requirements for local detailed plans.

Land policy and building ordinance

The municipalities can prepare a land policy programme in order to outline the principles of land use, land acquisition and implementation of land use plans.

The building ordinance is municipalities' primary tool for controlling construction. This ordinance lays down regulations and instructions corresponding to local conditions.

Steering and follow-up of land use and land use planning

The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for developing steering instruments for land use and enacts the related legislation. Steering ensures that land use and planning implement the objectives of, and meet the requirements set by, legislation.

Centres for economic development, transport and the environment steer and monitor municipal land use planning, providing advice on land use planning issues.

The land use planning situation and the related changes are monitored. At the moment, the state's environment administration is compiling data on municipalities, regional councils and Administrative Courts. The environment administration has developed the Information System for Monitoring Land Use Planning, as well as forms for monitoring local detailed plans. These make it easier to compile and forward data.

Maritime spatial planning

The purpose of maritime spatial planning is to promote the sustainable development growth of the different forms of use of the maritime area, sustainable use of natural resources and achievement of a good status for the marine environment.

The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the general development and guidance of maritime spatial planning and international cooperation related to this. Maritime spatial plans are prepared by the coastal Regional Councils in cooperation with the relevant stakeholders. The planning is to be completed by the end of March, and it will cover the territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone of Finland.

The national provisions on maritime spatial planning are laid down in the Land Use and Building Act.

More information

Anna-Leena Seppälä, Senior Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Department of the Built Environment, Land Use Telephone:0295250242   Email Address: