The glossary

Planning terms are often rooted in the administrative and planning culture of a particular country and cannot be straightforwardly translated.

The English-language glossary presented here is intended to offer a translation and elucidation of central terms in the German planning system to a non-German speaking readership in the interests of facilitating discourse.

Our intention is to ensure as much consistency as possible in the key terms used throughout this platform and the publications of the ARL that can be found here.

The definitions used are based on those found in the national glossary for Germany, which was elaborated in the framework of the BSR INTERREG III B project COMMIN.

Click here to perform a search based on the English term.

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Abwägung der BelangeWeighing of interests

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In preparing decisions in all fields of spatial and sectoral planning, interests typically need to be weighed. This is a key requirement in planning for the benefit of society under the rule of law. A complex theoretical framework has consequently been developed to achieve this in applying building and sectoral planning law. The requirement to weigh interests in urban land-use planning is enshrined in the Federal Building Code. Conflicting public and private interests are to be weighed against each other and given fair consideration This places a duty on municipalities to ensure:

  1. that interests are duly weighed,
  2. that all matters warranting consideration are covered,
  3. that there is no failure to appreciate the importance of public and private interests
  4. that the balance achieved is proportionate to the objective importance of individual interests.

Within these limits a municipality is free to decide in favour of one interest and thus against another.


Important elements in spatial planning, axes are constituted by a concentration of transport and supply routes (linear infrastructure) and a relatively close succession of development centres and central places. Depending on physical features and functions, a distinction is made between communications axes (supralocal axes) and settlement axes. Communications axes connect differently ranking central places and offer locational advantages at transport interchanges or nodes.

Supralocal axes are national or European communication axes. Settlement axes are axes in agglomerations formed by a close succession of settlements along the routes of existing or planned public-transport services. They do not necessarily form an unbroken ribbon of development but can be separated by open spaces. Spatial planning attempts to concentrate development along settlement axes to exploit existing public transport services more effectively and to preserve open spaces between axes.

Agglomeration, AgglomerationsraumAgglomeration, agglomeration area

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An (urban) agglomeration (largely synonymous with conurbation, metropolitan area) is a concentration of settlements consisting of interlinked and interdependent communities distinguished from surrounding areas by greater settlement density and a higher proportion of built development. As a rule, agglomerations form around one or more core cities surrounded by heavily built-up inner rings of suburbs and geographically more extensive, partly rural catchment areas.

The core or central city with the suburban belt is referred to as an urban region. Major cities with international status and their extensive catchment areas are termed metropolitan regions. With a high concentration of housing and workplaces, urban agglomerations drive economic development and are loci of cultural life. They are accordingly important for the country as a whole. In terms of spatial category, agglomerations or conurbations are the type of area with the highest use density, being the opposite pole to sparsely population rural areas. Communication axes between agglomerations, which partly traverse rural areas, are termed corridors.

AltlastContaminated site

The term "contaminated sites" refers to disused waste disposal and other sites with extensive soil contamination identified by hazard assessment as a concrete threat to human health or the environment. Contaminated waste disposal sites include closed refuse dumps with domestic and industrial waste, as well as decommissioned industrial sites. The national legal basis for dealing with suspected contaminated sites is provided by the Federal Soil Protection Act and the Federal Soil Protection and Contaminated Sites Ordninance.

Art der baulichen Nutzungbuilding use category

The Land Utilisation Ordinance classifies types of building use. It distinguises two categories: First, land-use areas for general types of use:

  • housing land
  • mixed building land
  • industrial and commercial land
  • special building land

This rough classification is to be used only in the preparatory land-use plan. Second, land-use areas for specific types of building use:

  • small holding areas
  • purely residential areas
  • general residential areas
  • special residential areas
  • village areas
  • mixed areas
  • core areas
  • commercial areas
  • industrial areas
  • special areas.

These specific land-use areas can be designated in both the preparatory and the binding land-use plan and are finer-grained and more detailed categories. The Land Utilisation Ordinance defines all the above development areas and provides details on what building projects and facilities are permitted.

Aufstellungs- und BeteiligungsverfahrenPlan preparation and public participation procedure

One particularly rigorous procedure (since it is enshrined in the Federal Building Code) is that governing the preparation, amendment, and repeal of urban land-use plans. The various stages - initiation of the procedure, participation, public display, adoption and approval of the plan (e.g., urban land-use plan) - are prescribed by law.

The procedure for public participation in the preparation of urban land-use plans is also standardised; this is a two-stage procedure. The first stage provides for the public to be informed at the earliest possible date through public advertisement of the general aims and purposes of the plan and of alternative proposals for the re-organisation or development of the planning area, and of the foreseeable impacts of the plan; at this point members of the public are given the opportunity to express their views and to gain further clarification. In a second step, draft plans and the accompanying explanatory memorandum, are placed on public display for a period of one month. During this period, members of the public are entitled to voice any objections to the plan or to make recommendations. The municipality is subsequently required to consider these objections and recommendations and to communicate the outcome of its deliberations to the people concerned.