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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Ver- und EntsorgungUtility services

The provision of public utility services is an important element in land improvement.
Utility services include:

  • water supply, a distinction being made between drinking water and industrial/process water,
  • sewage/waste water disposal and treatment,
  • refuse/waste collection, transport, treatment, and storage,
  • power supply, including the disposal of all substances created or arising during power generation,
  • telecommunications.

VerflechtungsbereichInteractional area

Synonymously with catchment area, the area served by a city with its central functions. In state spatial planning the concept is used in connection with the central-place system. It refers to the area whose population is served by the central place. Catchment areas are defined on the basis of the predominant orientation to a central place displayed by the resident population, taking into account both tolerable distances to central places and the capacity of central-place facilities. In terms of the different service functions of central places, a distinction is made between local, intermediate, and extended areas. Local catchment areas satisfying basic everyday needs surround every central place; intermediate catchment areas around each middle-order and high-order centre meet periodic needs, and extended areas around each high-order centre satisfy specialised needs. The definition of these areas is the responsibility of state spatial planning, and is laid down in state spatial planning concepts (spatial structure plans). The urban region (Stadt-Umland-Bereich or Stadtregion) denotes a city with its catchment area in the narrower sense, where the relationship is not one of central place and tributary area but of more or less continuous built development with strong identificational ties. It encompasses the core city and suburban belt, but not the more distant, rural parts of the catchment area.

Vergaberecht für PlanungsdienstleistungenLaw relating to the procurement of planning services

In keeping with European law, public contracts are awarded in accordance with differentiated statutory regulatory regimes. This is also the case with regard to planning services. These regimes include the Contracting Procedures for Building Works (VOB), the Contracting Procedures for Services (VOL), the Contracting Procedures for Professional Services (VOF), the Regulation of the Award of Public Contracts (VgV), and the Fee Schedule for Architects and Engineers (HOAI). The VOB regulates contracting for building services. Building services are works of every type by which a physical structure or installation is produced, maintained, altered, or removed. Planning service contracts, in contrast, are mostly awarded in accordance with the VOF or VOL. The VOF (Contracting Procedures for Professional Services) applies with respect to contracts for services rendered in the course of independent professional activities or offered in competition with free-lance professionals.

The VOF applies when the contract value reaches or exceeds a certain level. The VOL (Contracting Rules for Services) applies with regard to supplies and services that are not within the ambit of the VOB or the VOF. They are also applicable for services rendered by freelance professionals or in competition with such and which involve tasks which cannot be unambiguously and exhaustively specified in advance, and when the threshold contract values laid down by the Regulation on the Award of Public Contracts are reached or exceeded. The Regulation on the Award of Public Contracts 2003 contains a number of provisions on the procedure to be followed in awarding and reviewing public contracts over the threshold values in Europe-wide contracting. The regulation obliges the contracting authority to apply the procedure above a certain contract value. The Fee Schedule for Architects and Engineers (HOAI) governs the remuneration of architectural and engineering services. It contains rules on calculating fees on the basis of basic services and special services.

VerkehrsplanungTransport planning

View in Compendium

Transport planning is a sectoral field of planning concerned with the causes of traffic, traffic and transport itself, and its effects. Transport is not an end in itself but a “subservient function.” The aims of transport planning is therefore to ensure that all regions are accessible thus enabling the entire population is enabled to participate in economic, societal, and cultural processes, and to avoid any traffic-related impairment of environment and the quality of life. Statutory objectives include the promotion of environmentally friendly modes of transport (public transport, cycling, pedestrian). Among the current challenges facing transport planning are continuing suburbanisation, separation of functions, and diminishing use density.

Transport planning needs to integrated into overall spatial planning and coordinated with other sectoral planning. It takes place on all levels of planning, from the EU to the urban district level. In order to assess transport requirements and planning alternations, transport planners need comprehensive data.

Transport planning is the area of sectoral planning that attracts the greatest attention among the general public and politicians. Coordinated, medium to long-term federal transport planning is laid down every 5 to 10 years in the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan (FTIP). At the state level, public transport plans provide the basis for developing public transport. Municipalities, regions, and states may draw up general transport plans (Generalverkehrsplan or Gesamtverkehrsplan) providing a strategy for dealing with all transport and traffic in the planning area. At the city-wide level, transport development planning adopts a similarly comprehensive approach, albeit with greater regard for the social and environmental compatibility of urban transport and traffic. The transport planning instruments used differ from project to project depending on their scale. They include the planning approval procedure and the urban land-use plan.


An ordinance is a general regulation issued by a governmental authority pursuant to a statute with the same binding effect as primary law. Ordinances in this sense (Rechtsverordnungen) are to be distinguished from administrative regulations which apply only with regard to subordinate public authorities and require no statutory basis.

VorbehaltsgebietReserve area/site

Reserve areas are areas where special importance is attached to certain functions or uses of importance for spatial structure in comparison with competing uses. In their specific character, reserve areas reflect the principles of spatial planning; but no final appraisal has yet been undertaken of the substantive benefits their designation anticipates.

VorkaufsrechtRight of pre-emption

The right of pre-emption is the “right of first refusal” which a local authority is permitted to exercise in respect of a property within its territory. The Federal Building Code distinguishes between general and specific local-authority rights of pre-emption, both of which apply only to the purchase of real property. In both cases, the exercise of the pre-emption right is permitted only when this is in the public interest.

A municipality is permitted to make use of its general pre-emption right in six distinct cases: within the area covered by a binding land-use plan in respect of sites designated for public use; in an area undergoing reallocation; in a formally designated rehabilitation area, and in an urban development zone; within the territory covered by a preservation and redevelopment statute; within areas covered by a preparatory land-use plan, provided the land concerned is not developed, is situated in the outer zone and has been earmarked in the preparatory land-use plan for use as housing land or as a residential area; in respect of sites within the territory covered by a binding land-use plan or in built-up areas which are suitable for predominantly residential development and which have not been developed.

Exercise of the specific pre-emption right must be underpinned by a bye-law (or municipal statute); this is accordingly sometimes referred to as a “statutory preemption right”. The municipality may assert by statute its right of pre-emption in respect of undeveloped land within the area covered by a binding land-use plan; it is also permitted to make use of this right in respect of areas for which urban development measures are being considered, and, in order to safeguard planned urban development, it may designate by statute such sites in respect of which it may wish to exercise its right of preemption. Pre-emption rights are also enshrined in nature-protection law.

VorranggebietPriority area

Priority areas (or sites) are areas in which priority is given to specific functions or uses which are of special significance for overall spatial structure, and where any other uses with spatial impacts which are not compatible with the designated priority functions, uses or goals are excluded. Priority areas reflect the goals of spatial planning; designation of a priority area represents the binding outcome of a weighing process and rules out any further room for discretion on the function to which the site is to be put (though not on other details). Priority areas of different types are only allowed to overlap where this does not give rise to conflicts of use.