00 Hameenlinna 2007 Wlm Jaakko Virtanen. Lisenssi: Wiki Loves Monuments, CC BY-SA 4.0

Land-use planning and the cultural environments

Most of the building protection efforts are based on the Land-Use and Building Act, in practice on planning. Land use plans are created by municipalities, various authorities and citizens, often through associations and organisations.

The Land-Use and Building Act (132/1999) steers land-use planning and building, and thereby also the preservation and change of the cultural environment. Land-use planning is conducted by creating land use plans. The aim is to promote the beauty and culture of a built environment and good building practices. Particular emphasis is placed on the maintenance and use of the existing buildings. Land use plans are governed by the content requirements of the Act, but also the national area-use objectives.

Municipalities are in charge of the land use plans and confirm the plans they have created. The plans must be based on a sufficient number of studies and surveys. These include inventories on ancient relics, buildings and the built heritage, and at the beginning of the planning process, it must be checked that these inventories are sufficient and updated. Information is needed when setting the goals and regulations or providing instructions regarding the protection of the cultural environment, buildings, structures and relics on all levels of land use planning. The surveys also support the evaluation of the plans’ impact, as required by the Act.

Land use plan creation is based on the active participation and interaction of municipalities, citizens and authorities. The Finnish Heritage Agency and the regional museums take part in the planning as experts of the cultural environment, for example at meetings, during surveys and by providing statements.

The regional land use plan provides a general plan for the land use in a province. The plan may also be created step-by-step or section-by-section. The Regional Council is in charge of its design. The purpose of the regional land use plan is to convey the national land use goals regarding the cultural environment and to steer the safeguarding and strengthening of the special characteristics of a province’s cultural environment. Special attention should be paid to the safeguarding of the landscape and cultural heritage (Section 28 of the Land-Use and Building Act). The Finnish Heritage Agency participates in the creation of the regional land-use plans.

Local master plans and local detailed plans are created in order to organise the use of a municipality’s land. The purpose of a local master plan is to steer the general land use in a municipality or one of its districts, and to reconcile different operations. When creating a plan, the built environment, landscape and natural values must be safeguarded and existing community structure utilised (Section 39 of the Land Use and Building Act). A local master plan will function as a set of instructions when creating or amending local detailed plans. Apart from rural population centres, local master plans are typically the most detailed form of plans in the countryside, which is why the protection decisions are also made during their creation.

In cities, urban centres and often also in the coastal areas, the local detailed plans regulate the use of these areas and the construction work there. The purpose of a local detailed plan is to regulate building and other land use as required by the local conditions, urban and landscape image, good building practices, and the use of existing buildings. Built and natural environments must be safeguarded, and their special values must not be destroyed (Section 54 of the Land-Use and Building Act). The protection orders in a local detailed plan may cover large areas or landscapes, but also individual buildings or structures, yard areas or gardens.

Building ordinances are used, particularly in the sparsely populated areas, to complement local land-use planning, and they contain building regulations that aim to preserve the cultural and natural values as well as create a good living environment. Local detailed plans may also be accompanied by instructions regarding construction methods, applicable to both new constructions and renovations.

Orders to safeguard the culture-historical significance or features of an area or site may be issued at all plan levels (Sections 30, 41 and 57 of the Land-Use and Building Act). If a site has been placed under protection in a regional land use plan that is newer than the local master plan, or in a local master plan newer than the local detailed plan, this must be taken into consideration when reforming the municipal plans or granting permits.

Protection markings and orders affect the permit process regarding a building, including the building, action and demolition permits. When making repairs or alterations to a protected building, the protection order must be adhered to. If necessary, guidance or a statement may be requested from the museum authorities when conducting repairs.

Buildings must be demolished in accordance with the Land-Use and Building Act. Demolishing a building in a local detailed plan area requires a permit. If a building or part of it has historical or architectural value, a demolition permit is required. Demolition must not infer the destruction of the heritage-, beauty-related or other values of a built environment (Section 139 of the Land-Use and Building Act). When demolishing a building or its part, the operator must ensure that no historically or architecturally valuable buildings or the urban image is damaged (Section 118 of the Land-Use and Building Act). The museum authorities will evaluate the site’s culture-historical value.

New construction must conform to its surroundings and the landscape, and be architecturally balanced. In addition, good overall building practices must be used. The Act highlights good and professionally conducted planning as one of the key elements affecting building quality.

The municipal building inspector usually oversees the repair and alteration works of buildings protected in the land-use plan. Before embarking on a repair project, you should determine the impact of protection on the planning process.

The municipal building inspection authority assesses permit applications or action notifications to determine whether the operation requires a statement by the museum authority.

The regulations of a land-use plan may require input from the museum authority before starting repair or alteration work. In this event, you should contact the museum authority before you start planning the repairs to determine the framework for the repairs and alterations and provide advice and guidance on solutions that promote the protection of the building. The museum authority is usually the regional museum, but if no building researcher is available at the regional museum, you should turn to the Finnish Heritage Agency.