Context for Participatory Planning

Participatory planning was introduced into Estonia in the mid-1990s. Before that, under the control of totalitarian Soviet system, Estonia’s urban planning followed the socialist path that adopted the theories of modernist and rationalism. The lands, planning, and developments were governed by the state agencies, and public participation was avoided (Mart & Nele, 2016; Treija & Bratuškins, 2019; Ruoppila, 2007). In 1995, Estonia had its first Planning and Building Act, which later was separated into two acts: Building Act and Planning Act. The Planning Act was revised in 2009 emphasising the importance of public participation (Perjo & Fredricsson, 2017).

Municipalities in Estonia manage their own spatial planning, including both comprehensive plans and detailed plans. Before these plans are submitted to municipal council for ratification, they must undergo public display and then public hearing (Prilenska, 2020). The city of Tallinn has practiced public displays that allow personal communication between citizens and the representatives of Tallinn planning department since 1993 (ibid.). As of today, the complete comprehensive plan of the city of Tallinn, together with general plans and thematic plans of different districts, is published online on the webpage of the city. In addition, details of planning procedures and public’s proposals are also published on the webpage (Tallinn, 2021). During the one-month public display, any citizen can submit an opinion or a proposal about the plan, while in a public hearing, their opinions and proposals will be presented, evaluated, accepted, or rejected. The final decision on acceptance or rejection is taken by the municipal council. Municipal planning department is also responsible for curating public participation procedures (Prilenska, 2020).

With the development of e-governance in Estonia, participatory planning in the country is transiting into an e-participation style. More and more digital participatory planning methods are utilized, e.g., TOM/TID+ (TOM, as the Estonian acronym of “Today I decide”, is a forum that enables citizens to proposal, discuss and vote on legislative proposals. TID+, acronym of “Tomorrow I Decide+”, is an open-source software developed based on the experience from TOM for public proposal collection.), OSALE (an e-participation platform allowing government agencies to publish policy plans, legislation, and provisions for public consultation in order to improve transparency and citizen participation in decision-making,, etc.

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