chapter  8
27 Pages

New planning jurisdictions, scant resources and local public responsibility: Delivering spatial planning in Slovenia


Introduction Slovenia obtained independence in 1991. This year not only represents an important shift in political terms, but it also has brought significant changes in public perceptions of real property. The status of the democratic republic Slov­ enia implied a change of the economy from nationally regulated to free market oriented (SSDS 2004: 13). Land ceased to be managed only by the State and equally accessible for all, and became open to the private initiatives and invest­ ment interests of many actors (Blagajne and Santej 2001). Not only the market but also public policies and regulations, territorial development legislation among them, had to adapt to this new reality. In less than 20 years since Slov­ enian independence, three spatial planning acts already have been adopted. But, for the moment, none of these acts have been regarded as successful in handling the transformation of the Slovenian planning system. Redefining the organization and the purpose of a spatial planning system is an enormous challenge, especially under the pressure of the constant inflow of changes in European and wider global policies and economy. After gaining a new geopolitical position in Europe and entering newly established international relations (SSDS 2004: 13), the pre­ accession period started in 1993 with the Copenhagen declaration. This period meant that recently formulated national polices and institutions would have to be reshaped to meet the increasingly demanding development challenges. The need for additional policy and institu­ tional adaptation became even more evident when Slovenia formally entered the EU in 2004, becoming officially entitled to the whole range of benefits and con­ straints of the Union. Although there is no common European planning law, some guidelines and initiatives for a more comprehensive approach to spatial development do exist at the EU level. Additionally, funding is available through the EU Cohesion Policy where, for the 2007-2013 programming period, the whole area of Slovenia constitutes two NUTS21 convergence regions which compete and cooperate on the international level (European Regional Policy 2007). In such a mixture of present challenges and future opportunities, we see the establishment of an efficient system of regulations as an even more important

driving force to oppose the interests of the different stakeholders constantly putting the planning activity under pressure (ESPON 2007). Planning activity is also challenged by the diverse Slovenian landscapes and dispersed settlement network in which it is difficult to deliver development and economic prosperity equally. This problem resulted in the occurrence of deprived areas, especially in geographically remote parts of the country. Since the accessibility of these areas and the interconnectivity of the country were among the major problems, construction of the highway network became the primary development priority. Nowadays, the nearly finished highway system is seen rather as a creator of new problems than a solution to the old ones (SDSS 2004). In fact, a substantial increase of suburbanization and everyday commut­ ing has occurred around the capital city and the highway routes; additionally, more freight transit through the country has increased emissions in these areas (Svetic 2006). On one hand, the small settlements exposed to the pressure of suburbanization usually lack sufficient infrastructure and facilities for the new­ comers (Music 2000). On the other, bigger towns suffer from emigration; in the past, well established companies failed, and degraded areas such as brownfields occur, which desperately call for urban renewal, not just in environmental and spatial terms but also in economic and social ones (SSDS 2004). So far the gov­ ernment has not developed any national policies specifically targeting urban development and renewal, but it has worked more strongly on environmental protection measures as evidenced by one of the highest terrestrial rates (37 per cent) in the Natura 2000 programme (Natura 2000, 2009). These are all policy areas and issues upon which spatial planning can have an influence, but their success does not depend as much on their scale as it does on the capacity and characteristics of the planning system itself. In Slovenia traditional land­ use planning is still very much alive and evident in the current planning legislation. Three spatial planning acts have been adopted after independence. The first one was only a slight adaptation of an existing one, but the subsequent two acts in 2003 and 2007 brought new concepts into plan­ ning. Legislation changes quickly and thus it is seen as a major cause of the current situation in the territory – without questioning the planning system itself and its capacity. By definition, it is the duty of the law to control people’s beha­ viour and decisions, and to guarantee the institutions, instruments and funds to prevent unwanted development (Rakar 2006: 25). This chapter does not naively accept this estimation, but tries to find an explanation by taking a closer look into the implementation of the legislation and the organizational support behind it. The author argues that if the legislation fails in the task of delivering spatial development, as specified in the core planning policy, it is not necessarily the fault of the planning system as it is the result of insufficient implementation and organizational support. In this environment of new jurisdictions and a new con­ ceptual framework, planners are left to operate through knowledge and values insufficiently adapted to these new conditions. During the preparation process of the last planning legislation, a large gap occurred between policy­ makers and policy beneficiaries in terms of where to shift the redesign of the planning act.