Planning is a multi-level process and requires cooperation

Planning involves cooperation in which residents can also participate. The city is constantly changing. The aim of planning is to steer the city’s development in a favourable direction. It also helps us preserve cultural environments as well as recreational and natural areas.

Planning at many levels

The city is always changing – in the short and long term, on a small and large scale. Therefore, we need a variety of tools and planning at different levels from a regional plan to local detailed plans.

In Espoo, land use planning is part of a greater whole. The regional plan covers the development objectives of the entire region, for example the most important transport projects and nature reserves.

Land use planning in Espoo is also guided by the city’s strategy, known as the Espoo Story, and agreements concluded by the city. Land use, housing and transport in the capital region are coordinated through an agreement (MAL) concluded between the municipalities and the state. The agreement covers, for example, the principles of residential construction, the largest transport projects and the ways in which the state supports the development of the region. The purpose of this is to ensure that the municipalities take equal responsibility for addressing the need for housing and services, which is increasing as a result of migration.

The Land Use and Building Act regulates land use planning, building ordinances, plot division and building control. The City Planning Department is responsible for drawing up Espoo’s master plans and local detailed plans.

From master plans to local detailed plans

A master plan is a general plan that steers the development of the city or its part in the long term.

Master planning covers for example the following aspects:

  • how many and what type of residential buildings can be built in different areas;
  • where jobs will be placed;
  • what the city’s most important traffic routes are;
  • what the main recreational areas are and how the network of green areas will be built.

Nothing will be built based on a master plan. It simply describes what is possible in different areas. The map symbols and regulations are not exact, so you cannot draw any conclusions from them with regard to a specific plot.

A local detailed plan (town planning) is the most specific plan, regulating construction and land use in a specific area such as a block or a plot. The plan follows the guidelines of the master plan. The planning process is initiated by a landowner.

Read more about the master planning and town planning processes.

Land use reviews

Sometimes planning is done for a certain area between a master plan and a local detailed plan. This is known as an outline plan. It helps the planners make the master plan objectives more concrete in an area, for example a specific district. It will guide the town planning process in the area, but it is not legally effective unlike the actual plans.

In Espoo, other types of planning activities also take place at an area level. They are generally referred to as land use reviews. In addition to outline plans, such reviews include local development goals and vision-related work.

The planner’s desktop is filled with various perspectives that must be taken into account when planning.

Planning approach

During the planning process, the planners assess changes in the area, alternative solutions and their effects.

Planning is affected for example by:

  • the current situation in the planning area and its surrounding environment
  • landowners’ development goals
  • information and opinions provided by residents
  • the views of experts and authorities.

In addition to the actual planning area, the planners need to take account of the entire district and the city’s operations. They also need to consider future generations, not just the current residents and the near future. The purpose of city planning is to find the best possible overall solution.

Planning is cooperation

Planners from the City Planning Department as well as landowners, residents and other interested parties and various experts and authorities are involved in the planning process.

The planners are responsible for coordinating the process and drawing up a plan. The City Planning Department’s key partners are:

  • landowners who wish to develop their area and thus enable the development of the city;
  • residents who participate in the planning process;
  • other parties affected by city planning, such as associations, communities and companies;
  • authorities that issue statements on the plans;
  • experts from different fields who provide information to support planning.

Read more about participation.


Democratically elected officials decide on initiating a planning process, making a plan available for public review and approving a plan.

In Espoo, planning is regulated by the city’s administrative regulations that determine the official bodies that decide on plans. Different bodies participate in the decision-making process depending on how important the plan is.

  • The City Board is in charge of general land use planning and decides on the related principles. The City Board sets objectives for master plans, makes master plan proposals available for public review and responds to the feedback received.
  • The Business and Competitiveness Subcommittee, operating under the City Board, occasionally makes planning area reservations that are then transferred to the City Planning Department.
  • The City Planning Committee processes plans at different stages and decides on the approval of most plans.
  • If a plan involves a land use agreement, the City Board or City Council will decide on its approval.
  • If a plan has major impacts, the City Council will decide on it.

From a plan to a city

Land use planning is a long process, but it is just one stage in the development of the city. Local detailed plans become more specific for example through building design, street plans and park plans, based on which construction work can begin.

The Public Works Department is responsible for planning the city’s park and transport route projects. The Premises Department is responsible for the design and construction of the city’s buildings. Permits for private construction projects are granted by the Building Control Department.

The whole Espoo