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Spatial planning at the regional level is of key importance for the country’s harmonious regional and balanced spatial development. The instrument of spatial planning at the regional level is the regional spatial strategy. It is a spatial strategic act by which the state and municipalities agree and harmonise on the spatial development of individual development regions on the basis of the Spatial Development Strategy of Slovenia, its action programme, other national development acts and EU development goals, as well as determine the essential development opportunities and guidelines for municipal spatial planning documents.

Content of the regional spatial strategy

The regional spatial strategy sets the goals and priorities of spatial development and contains guidelines for the spatial development of the region, especially guidelines for the development of settlements, the public service infrastructure and landscaping by preserving the landscape’s identity. Among other things, it defines towns, other urban settlements and any other settlements that are important for the region’s development, defines wider urban areas, sets out the design of social infrastructure networks, the public service infrastructure, residential areas and the green system of the region and identifies priority areas for the development of individual activities that are important for regions and connections with neighbouring areas.

The key role of the regional spatial strategy is to harmonise municipalities on its implementation and to determine spatial arrangement designs of local importance that extend into the area of several municipalities or affect their development, such as priority housing development areas, large shopping centres, infrastructure hubs and spatial arrangements intended for the regulation of joint public passenger transport, social infrastructure facility areas and spatial arrangements directly intended for the provision of local public service utilities in the field of environmental protection.

Integration of regional level spatial planning into the policy of balanced regional development and the spatial planning system

Regional spatial planning began to be introduced in Slovenia in 2018 with the adoption of the Spatial Planning Act. Due to the absence of the implementation of local self-government at the regional level, it relies on systemic solutions provided by the policy of balanced regional development of the country.

Regional spatial strategies are prepared at the level of development regions. These are functional territorial units determined by regulations governing balanced regional development. Slovenia consists of 12 development regions.

The regional spatial strategy serves as the basis for the elaboration of the regional development programme and must be adopted before or simultaneously with it. It is also the basis for the implementation of the national spatial planning procedures used to harmonise the concepts of spatial arrangements. The regional spatial strategy is a replacement for the strategic part of the existing municipal spatial plans.

Recommendations for elaborating regional spatial strategies

A model for integrating spatial and development planning at the regional level

A comprehensive, place-based approach to the area is possible only by appropriately connecting spatial planning with development planning at the regional level which, supported by sound cooperation of stakeholders and administrative levels, enables development that is also spatially rational and balanced and enables development synergies and breakthroughs. The establishment of regions as administrative levels is not requisite, as other, agreed forms of integration and governance at the regional level are also possible.