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.


Zentrale-Orte-SystemCentral-place system

The central-place system goes back to the work of Walter Christaller (1933). Since the 1960s, it has had a decisive influence on the spatial planning strategies for developing settlement structure in the Federal Republic of Germany. The central-place classificatory system is an important tool in state and regional planning, and is laid down in spatial structure plans. In addition to supplying the needs of its own population, a central place performs service and development functions for the population of its catchment area. The central place system constitutes a hierarchy of basic, lower-order or small centres, middle-order centres, and high-order centres as determined at the different levels of state spatial planning.

Some states insert intermediate categories in the hierarchy. Depending on their assignment to a central place, catchment areas are defined as local, intermediate or extended areas. The lowest level in the hierarchy is occupied by basic centres (low-order centres, small centres) with a local catchment area. They are designated in regional plans, and their functions include supplying the basic daily needs of the population and providing a minimum of public and private infrastructure (general secondary school, doctor, chemist, tradesmen, etc.).

Middle-order centres are central places that meet more demanding, medium-term needs of the population in the intermediate catchment area (secondary schools leading to university entrance, hospitals, a variety of shopping amenities, etc.), and are designated by state spatial planning. They are also labour-market centres for their catchment area. High-order centres are also designated by state spatial planning and meet demanding, specialisedrequirements of the population in the extended catchment area (technical colleges / universities, specialised clinics, large department stores, etc.). High-order centres also have a greater supply of highly qualified and skilled labour. 

ZersiedlungUrban sprawl

Suburbanisation is the process by which a population and jobs shift from the core city of an urban region to outlying areas. Suburbanisation has taken place in the major cities of the Western world in several waves since the 19th century. It is closely associated with shifts in transport modes from public transport to private motorisation and with sociospatial segregation processes. Owing to less dense land use in suburban residential, commercial, and industrial locations, suburbanisation exacerbates land consumption, urban sprawl, and the proliferation of private
motorised transport. Whereas during the suburbanisation wave from about 1960 in western Germany the exodus of the urban population preceded the departure of commerce and industry from the core city, “catch-up” suburbanisation in East Germany from 1990 onwards was led by large-scale retail establishments before residential outmigration occurred. In recent decades, suburbanisation, especially as far as housing is concerned, has tended to shift to rural areas increasingly distant from cities. This process is termed “exurbanisation” or “periurbanisation”.

Ziele der RaumordnungGoals of spatial planning

Together with the spatial planning clauses, the goals of spatial planning constitute the most important tool for enforcing supra-local interests in spatial planning. As defined by the Federal Spatial Planning Act, they are binding stipulations on the development, structure and securing of a defined area, as contained in spatial structure plans in the form of definitive spatial and substantive designations by state or regional planning authorities expressed in textual and cartographic form. Spatial planning goals are to be identified as such in the spatial structure plan and must be strictly complied with in planning and measures affecting spatial structures by all public bodies and planning authorities. This duty of compliance excludes the circumvention of spatial planning goals on the basis of other considerations.

Ziele, Grundsätze und sonstige Erfordernisse der RaumordnungGoals, principles and other requirements of spatial planning (Raumordnung)

The principles of spatial planning are general precepts concerning the development, structuring, and securing of spatial entities to be taken into accountin weighing up interests and making discretionary decisions. These principles of spatial planning applicable throughout the country are set out under 15 points in Section 2 (2) of the Federal Spatial Planning Act. They are to be applied in the pursuit of sustainable spatial development, giving concrete form to this guideline, and providing general ideas for attaining it. At the state level, these principles are worked out in greater detail and adapted to the conditions prevailing in the given state. The states are entitled to adopt additional spatial planning principles, provided they do not conflict with the principles laid down in the Federal Spatial Planning Act. The states are required to weigh and balance the principles of spatial planning and to implement them territorially and substantively as goals of spatial planning in spatial structure plans.