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.

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Informal planningInformelle Planung

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The planning approaches which are generally described as “informal” are characterised by non-formalised and non-binding procedures, and by their focus on achieving a consensus. With the rise in the number of conflicts occurring over the use of land and the increasing complexity of planning procedures, there has been a steady growth in interest since the mid-1970s in the use of informal approaches to planning. As far as possible, they aim to eliminate or resolve conflicts consensually and on a co-operative basis prior to the initiation of formal and legally binding planning procedures. Informal approaches also facilitate later planning action by involving stakeholders in all aspects of the scheme very early in the process. Informal approaches are in use at all levels of spatial planning in Germany.


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Infrastructure is the totality of material, institutional, and personnel facilities and factors contributing to the functioning of the economy (firms, households, public authorities). It consists of generally available, necessary preparatory input and services for production and consumption, provided partly by the public sector. “Technical infrastructure” includes facilities for traffic and transport, energy, water, waste management, and communications. “Social infrastructure” includes facilities for education, culture, health, recreation and leisure. In a broader sense, one can also speak of immaterial infrastructure, meaning people's performance potential in an economy ("human capital"). Since, in many cases, infrastructure yields no direct profits but provides the basis for profit-oriented, economic activities, its provision and maintenance is traditionally regarded as a task of government. Since the 1990s, much public infrastructure has been privatised, although government has mostly retained its planning powers. The provision of infrastructure is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the economic development of regions. The comprehensive provision of essential infrastructure for all sections of the population is a political objective which demands governmental co-financing even in privatised markets. In periods of growth or shrinkage, the infrastructure needs to be adapted to the changing needs of the population.

Inner zoneInnenbereich

The inner zone covers those parts of the municipal territory which are largely given over to built development, but which are not covered by a qualified binding land-use plan. For an area to be counted as part of the inner zone it must display a pattern of connected development and be recognisable as part of a community. The presence of undeveloped sites is not necessarily to be seen as a sign of lack of connected development if the existing development still creates the impression of being a built-up area or of belonging to a community. In the present context, a community (Ortsteil) is defined as a cluster of developments within the territory of a municipality which, by virtue of the number of buildings it contains, has a certain significance or identity and represents an example of organic settlement structure.
Within built-up areas a development project is permissible only where, in terms of the type and scale of use for building, the coverage type and the plot area to be built on, the building proposal blends with the characteristic features of its immediate environment and the provision of local public infrastructure has been secured. The requirements of healthy living and working conditions must be satisfied; the overall appearance of the locality must not be impaired. Municipalities may designate the boundaries of the inner zone by bye-law. Furthermore, the municipality may, under certain circumstances, adopt bye-laws including certain developed, undesignated outlying areas (outer zones) in inner zones. These bye-laws, which may be combined, are referred to as inner-zone bye-laws (Innenbereichsatzungen).

Interactional areaVerflechtungsbereich

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.

Intermunicipal and regional cooperationInterkommunale und regionale Kooperation

Intermunicipal cooperation is joint action by local territorial authorities, i.e. by municipalities, towns and cities (whether county-free or belonging to counties), and counties to attain common goals and perform common functions. Cooperation can relate to neighbourhoods, to relations between cities and surrounding areas, or to regions. Important fields of intermunicipal cooperation are spatial planning, technical infrastructure, utility services, public transport, as well as environmental protection, culture, health, and welfare. A relatively new and still rare form of cooperation is the intermunicipal industrial estate. Such industrial estates are jointly developed and taxed by several local authorities.

Many legal forms are available for intermunicipal cooperation: the transfer of function performance to a municipality by association agreement, informal (non-mandatory) forms of cooperation like consortia and regional conferences, joint function performance by a private-law company or by a special corporation under public law (ad hoc/special purpose association). The basis for intermunicipal cooperation is laid down in state legislation pertaining to joint local-authority functions.

In some urban regions, municipalities have been committed to intermunicipal cooperation in associations of cities and surrounding regions set up by state law with the aim of mitigating the impact of suburbanisation. The tasks assigned to such “mandatory associations” can include joint land-use and spatial planning or joint responsibility for important regional facilities. Owing to strong interdependencies within urban regions, the public interest in the region requires a shift from isolated action taking into account solely the development of the single community to an overall, regional view, accepting certain restrictions in local authority autonomy in exchange.