Dynamic Evolution of National Land Use Objectives: Enhancing Relevance and Impact

National land use objectives (In Finnish: “Valtakunnallisten alueidenkäyttötavoitteiden”; VAT) evolve with the times, serving as a guide for spatial planning by the government to address nationally significant needs comprehensively. As the operating environment changes, so do the requirements for guiding land use. An assessment of land use objectives explored the effectiveness of current goals and how they should be developed in the future.

According to a joint study carried out by the University of Eastern Finland and Akordi, future national land use objectives are particularly needed to address climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as to combat biodiversity loss. Other nationally important interests include defense needs and supply security. There were also identified needs for national coordination in issues related to transportation networks, energy supply, and regional structure.

The timeliness of objectives should be monitored more systematically. Despite the long-term nature of land use planning, the operating environment changes rapidly. Therefore, it is crucial to monitor and evaluate the interests in land use across different government sectors and to react more swiftly and proactively. Collaboration in monitoring needs to be enhanced among various ministries and other stakeholders.

The results of the analysis in the study led by Aleksi Heinilä emphasize the importance of impact. According to the analysis, objectives should be concretized and prioritized in the future to reduce interpretational differences and increase effectiveness.

Akordi conducted the collaborative part of the study, which included an extensive stakeholder survey and workshop series. According to the survey targeting stakeholders, national land use objectives are seen as necessary and mostly functional within the spatial planning system. They have had the most significant impact on regional land use planning and the comprehensive planning of larger municipalities. National objectives specifically serve as a tool for proactive cooperation among authorities in the planning process. The majority of respondents stated that there have been no significant issues with their application.

The government decided on national land use objectives for the first time in 2000. They were partially reviewed in 2008 and renewed in 2017. The next update is planned in the coming years based on the evaluation of development needs and the relevance of objectives. In addition to the conducted study, the ongoing comprehensive overview of land use sets the stage for this update.