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.

Hier können sie vom deutschen Begriff ausgehend suchen.


PlanfeststellungPlanning approval

Planning approval procedure is the key tool in sectoral planning law. The purpose of a planning approval procedure is to determine whether a particular development project with spatial impacts (mostly infrastructural projects) is to be permitted to proceed. This procedure involves weighing and balancing both the interests of the developer and any public or private interests which might be affected by the development project. It concludes with a legally binding decision. Planning approval procedure is governed by federal and state administrative procedural law and is very similar throughout the country.

Planning approval includes all of the other required decisions by public authorities (e.g., licences, permits, concessions, consent), and regulates all public-law relationships between the developer and those affected by the project. Planning approval is therefore a comprehensive concentrative and formative process. The outcome of planning approval procedure is the planning approval decision. In addition to planning approval procedure, sectoral planning law permits sectoral area designations (spatially relevant sectoral planning).

Planungs- und BaurechtPlanning and building law

The panoply of legal foundations governing planning is usually divided into two categories: general planning law (planning and building law), and sectoral planning law. Planning and building law contains provisions dealing with both cross-sectoral, mostly coordinating planning and with building. Sectoral planning law regulates the functions and responsibilities of sectoral authorities, and, in particular, formal planning approval procedures for installations or structures planned and realised by these authorities.

Planning and building law includes spatial planning law and public building law. Spatial planning law governs comprehensive (i.e. supra-sectoral) spatial planning beyond urban land-use planning at the federal, state and regional levels. One of the purposes of spatial planning law is to set principles and goals for structuring and developing an area, and for implementing such projects. It also coordinates the measures of spatial planning bodies. Planning with an impact on spatial structures include spatial structure plans, projects and other measures by means of which land is used or the spatial development or function of an area is influenced, including the use of earmarked public funds.

More specifically, spatial planning law is laid down:

  • as federal spatial planning by the Federal Spatial Planning Act,
  • as state and regional planning by the Federal Spatial Planning Act and, in particular, by state spatial planning acts.

Public building law can be divided into planning law (urban development law) and building regulations (building control law). Whereas planning law is governed by federal legislation, building regulations are governed by state legislation.

PlanungshoheitPlanning autonomy

Local or municipal planning autonomy refers to the local planning rights constitutionally guaranteed to local authorities. The basis for planning autonomy is the constitutional right of municipal selfgovernment. The constitution of the Weimar Republic, Article 28 of the Basic Law, and the constitutions of the West German states have entrenched the system of local self-government. Article 28 of the Basic Law lays down that municipalities must be guaranteed the right to regulate all local affairs on their own responsibility within the limits prescribed by the laws. The Federal Building Code accordingly specifies that land-use plans are to be prepared by the municipality on their own responsibility.

PlanungsträgerPlanning agency/authority

Planning agencies are institutions vested with competence for planning at the various levels of comprehensive and sectoral planning by federal or state law. Public planning authorities are the public authorities and agencies responsible for spatial planning and which thus determine the use of land and influence the spatial development of an area.

Public Private PartnershipPublic private partnership

Public private partnership (PPP) is the term applied to a form of organised cooperation between institutions and persons from various areas of the public and private sectors. The purpose of such partnerships is the joint performance of urban development and regional development functions that none of the parties involved can handle alone and which are of benefit to all concerned.
Both the increasing privatisation of public enterprises and the growing trend towards carrying out complex projects on a one-stop basis have made public-private partnerships an increasingly important strategy. They are used for a wide range of local government functions and in many policy areas. PPPs are entrusted with local utilities, urban development, housing, environmental protection, and cultural, recreational, and sports facilities.

There are three types of PPP:

  • informal cooperation between local government executives,
  • cooperation under contract,
  • quasi-public enterprises (especially in the utility sector).

The most frequent form of PPP is a cooperative arrangement regulated by contract. Examples are the operator model (operator contract), the leasing model (leasing contract), management contracts, urban-development contracts, and project and infrastructure plans. The operator model provides for a private entity to act in agreement with the municipality in setting up or rehabilitating and operating a facility of which it is the owner but which is put at the service of the municipality as a public facility. Management contracts entrust the running of public buildings and facilities to private entities. Municipal leasing models provide for private investors to finance and build infrastructural facilities or buildings, which are then leased to the municipality.