Landscape legislation in Catalonia

Landscape legislation in Catalonia

The main regulatory texts that govern Catalonia’s landscape policies are the European Landscape Convention, Law 8/2005, of 8 June, on the protection, management and planning of the landscape (in Spanish), and Decree 343/2006, of 19 September, which develops Law 8/2005, of June 8, on the protection, management and planning of the landscape (in Spanish), and regulates studies and reports on landscape impact and integration.

European Landscape Convention

On 20 October 2000, the Council of Europe approved the European Landscape Convention to commit European public administrations to devise protection, planning and management policies for their respective landscapes. As different countries and territories sign the Convention, they ratify it and define the legislation and political practices. The practical consequences of the agreement include:

  • Recognising the landscape as a subject of law and its inclusion in the legislative body.
  • Formulating the landscape in national, regional and local policies.
  • Taking a global approach consistent with the principles of sustainable development.
  • Circulating information about landscapes and their values while raising awareness among civil society, private organisations and public authorities.
  • Involving all public and private actors in protecting, managing and planning the landscape through public participation.
  • Promoting international exchanges of knowledge and information on all matters provided for in the Convention. The Catalan Parliament was the first European chamber to sign the European Landscape Convention, in December 2000, with Resolution 364/VI of 14 December 2000.

Catalan Landscape Law

On 8th June 2005, by virtue of the autonomous competences in landscape matters, the Catalan legislative chamber passed Law 8/2005, of 8 June, on the protection, management and planning of the landscape (in Spanish) which defines the legal framework that must legally protect Catalan landscapes, while establishing the appropriate instruments to manage them: landscape catalogues, landscape guidelines, landscape charters, the Landscape Observatory and the Fund for landscape protection, management and planning. A year later, in 2006, the Landscape Protection, Management and Planning Regulation was approved, which develops the 2005 law. In addition to defining and expanding the instruments mentioned in the 2005 law, the regulation adds landscape impact and integration studies and reports.

Definition of landscape

The Landscape Law adopts the European Convention’s definition of landscape: “an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors”, while conceiving it globally and comprehensively. This means that the law does not exclude any type of landscape, so its provisions are applicable to the entire territory of Catalonia, meaning to natural, rural, forest, urban and peri-urban areas, to unique landscapes as well as to everyday or degraded ones, whether inland or coastal.

Objectives and principles

The Landscape Law aims to protect, manage and plan landscapes. According to the law, the principles that must guide the public authorities’ actions on landscape matters include:

  • Promoting harmonious development of the landscape in accordance with the concepts of rational use of the territory.
  • Preserving people’s right to live in a culturally significant environment by taking protective action.
  • Recognising that the landscape is an element of individual and collective well-being with economic, cultural, social, heritage, aesthetic and environmental value.
  • Considering the consequences on the landscape of any land planning and management action and assess the effects of constructing buildings.
  • Promoting cooperation between the various public administrations in preparing and executing landscape planning and policies.
  • Encouraging public and private initiatives to work together to take action, adopting instruments and making decisions about the landscape.
  • Boosting the participation of social, professional and economic actors in landscape policies, especially professional associations, universities, environmental or nature-related associations and business and trade union representatives.
  • Encouraging training in this material.

Instruments of the Law

Landscape catalogues

The Landscape Law defines the landscape catalogues as “documents of a descriptive and prospective nature that determine the types of Catalonia’s landscapes, identify their values and their state of conservation and propose the quality objectives they must meet”. The catalogues must include the following information: an inventory of landscape values in the area of each catalogue; a list of the activities and processes that impact or have impacted the configuration of the landscape most noticeably; the marking of the main routes and spaces from which the landscape is perceived; the delimitation of landscape units, understood as coherent structural, functional or visual areas that may be subject to a specific system of protection, management or planning, in full or in part; the definition of landscape quality objectives for each landscape unit, understood as the expression of the community’s aspirations regarding the landscape characteristics of its environment; and, finally, the measures and actions necessary to achieve the landscape quality objectives.

Landscape directives

According to the Landscape Law, the landscape directives are the “determinations based on the landscape catalogues that specify and legally incorporate the proposed landscape quality objectives in partial spatial plans or master spatial plans”. Though the Government of Catalonia’s Ministry of Territory and Sustainability is responsible for incorporating the directives into partial spatial plans or master spatial plans, the other Catalan ministries, other public administrations and agencies and the public at large also participate in processing the landscape directives as part of the regulations and with the means established by them.

Landscape Observatory

Conceived as “an organisation supporting and collaborating with the Administration of the Government of Catalonia in all matters related to the creation, application and management of landscape policies”, it is composed of an array of representatives of the stakeholders working on the territory and the landscape, ministries of the Government of Catalonia, local bodies and social, professional and economic sectors.

Landscape charters

The Landscape Law defines the landscape charters as “instruments for coordinating strategies between public and private actors to carry out actions to protect, manage and plan the landscape that aim to maintain its values”. The initiative to draw up these charters can come from both the Government of Catalonia and regional councils or local administrations or bodies. Its content must consider what is established in the landscape catalogue corresponding to its territorial scope, and vice versa: if there is no catalogue, the content of the landscape maps that refer to that specific territory must be considered when drafting it.

Awareness-raising, education and support

The Landscape Law indicates the need to promote awareness, education and support for landscape matters, understood as instruments that promote positive attitudes towards the landscape. The Landscape Law specifies that these actions must be directed at society as a whole, at professionals and specialists and at all levels of education.

Fund for landscape protection, management and planning

The Landscape Law also provides for the creation and maintenance of an economic Fund for landscape protection, management and planning. The Fund is endowed with contributions from the Government of Catalonia through its budgets, as well as contributions from other public administrations, bodies and companies. The Landscape Law also establishes that public bodies, legally constituted private non-profit organisations and private natural and legal persons whose objectives include landscape improvement action can receive financing from the Fund.

Decree 343/2006, developing the Landscape Law

Decree 343/2006, of 19 September, which develops Law 8/2005, of June 8, on the protection, management and planning of the landscape (in Spanish), and regulates the landscape impact and integration studies and reports, aims to develop the instruments created by the aforementioned Law and particularly to regulate the procedures for approving the landscape catalogues and landscape directives, which integrate the determinations necessary to implement the policies that affect spatial and urban planning.

It also regulates the landscape impact studies established in urban planning legislation to guarantee the harmonised development of both regulations. It also refers to the instruments of collaboration and agreement provided for in the Landscape Law, the Landscape Observatory and the landscape charters, while dedicating a chapter to the Fund for landscape protection, management and planning.

Landscape impact and integration studies and reports

The landscape impact and integration study is characterised by being “a technical document intended to consider the consequences of implementing actions, work projects or activities on the landscape and to set out the criteria adopted for integrating them”. The landscape impact and integration report is the administrative document aimed at evaluating whether the criteria or actions taken in the landscape impact and integration studies are suitable and sufficient.