Online lecture on the new planning security law

Bürgerkonferenz Stadtentwicklungsplan STEP 2020 mit integriertem Gesamtkonzept, Stuttgart. Foto: Wick und Partner

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bdla: Effects on the culture of participation in planning projects must be carefully examined

On 29 May 2020, the "Act to ensure proper planning and approval procedures during the COVID 19 pandemic" came into force. For the bdla, Dr. Lutz Krahnefeld, Köchling explains

Public participation is a central and mandatory element of many planning and approval procedures. For reasons of infection control, documents can currently neither be put on public display nor can classical discussion meetings be held. The Planning Security Act introduces substitute options for such procedural steps. Instead of holding a hearing, for example, it will be possible to hold online consultations. The Act is limited in time until 31 March 2021.

Nevertheless, it must be stated that the quality of public participation currently standardized and practiced in Germany suffers with the envisaged digital possibilities. In his presentation, Dr. Krahnefeld states that the quality of the dialogue in the sense of speech and rebuttal is largely lost with the implementation of online consultations instead of physical discussion meetings. Online consultations are "ultimately the exchange of opinions", was Dr. Krahnefeld's summary.

In general, the bdla welcomes the law because it creates the basis for continuing or restarting planning and approval procedures that require public participation in a legally secure manner under the conditions and restrictions of the Corona pandemic. If the relevant procedures and construction projects were to be suspended for the time being, there would be a risk of unnecessary delays to important infrastructure measures, e.g. projects relating to the energy turnaround and grid expansion. The bdla calls on the public sector to quickly implement the digital public participation that is now necessary, as the continuation of approval procedures and construction projects lays the foundation for a stabilization of the construction industry as a pillar of overall economic development.

A recent study by the Berlin Institute for Participation, which surveyed more than 1,700 stakeholders, also shows that digital participation formats cannot completely replace the analogue procedures that have proven themselves over many years. Most respondents still see direct, personal discourse as a prerequisite for successful participation. Kerstin Berg, landscape planning spokeswoman of the bdla, therefore makes it clear: "The possibilities and limitations created by the Planning Security Act should not be established as the new normality in the long term without careful examination. Only what really proves itself in planning practice may be adopted into permanent law." In the current situation, he said, the law is absolutely right, but the usual and proven formats of public participation must not be abandoned without good reason.

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