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Legal Site Planning

Legal site planning represents the municipality’s most important planning instrument in managing and structuring of urban development. It prepares and governs the use of a municipality’s private and public land for construction or other purposes, the legal basis for which is laid out in the German Town and Country Planning Code (BauGB), in which the requisite official procedures are regulated.

Principles of Legal Site Planning

The aim of legal site planning is to ensure orderly and sustainable urban development, which guarantees a socially fair use of land for the benefit of the general public and creates an environment that is fit for human beings. In this context section 1 (5) of the Town and Country Planning ‘Code (BauGB) reads:
“The legal site plans are intended to guarantee sustainable urban development, which harmonizes social, economic, and environmentally-friendly requirements, with regard to future generations as well, and a socially fair use of land for the benefit of the general public. They are intended to ensure an environment that is fit for human beings and to protect and develop the natural bases of life, also with regard to climate protection in general, and to preserve and develop the urban fabric and appearance of places and landscapes in terms of architectural culture.”

Section 1 (6) of the Town and Country Planning Code contains a catalog of public concerns, which must be taken into consideration in particular in the drawing up of legal site plans. Environmental protection issues must be portrayed in a particular way through environmental assessment and the environmental report. Even during legal site planning municipalities must illustrate and specify any procedures to balance out the interventions in nature and the countryside made possible by the legal site plan, or adopt contractual regulations.

In addition there are a number of private issues on the part of individual citizens.

With regard to the drawing up legal site plans, section 1 (7) of the Town and Country Planning Code calls for public and private issues to be weighed up fairly, both among and against each other.

Legal site planning is completed in two stages. Legal site plans are:

  • the preparatory land use plan (preparatory legal site plan) and
  • the legal zoning plan (binding legal site plan).

Section showing Frankfurt's downtown in the 2010 regional zoning plan, scale 1:50,000, © Regionalverband FrankfurtRheinMain

The initial stage in municipal legal site planning involves a preparatory land use plan for the entire communal area being drawn up (sections 5–7 BauGB). The preparatory land use plan determines the basic use of the land. As such it creates a framework for subsequent plans but has no direct legal consequences for citizens with regard to the judgment of specific building projects. The preparatory land use plan essentially has a binding effect with regard to internal administration. Because the community must develop its legal zoning plans from the preparatory land use plan (section 8 BauGB), it binds itself through its preparatory land use plan. More...


Section of development plan no. 826 "Europaviertel West - Teilbereich 1", © Stadtplanungsamt Frankfurt am Main"

In the second stage individual legal zoning plans for specific sections of the communal land are drawn up as binding legal site planning (sections 8–13a BauGB). They are developed on the basis of the preparatory land use plan and regulate the building laws in the relevant restricted area of validity by the exact parcels of land. This means that for every parcel of land on a plot the valid building law is legible...
The stipulations in the legal site plans relating to the plot of land regulate the use of the land for construction and other purposes in a way that is generally binding. The legal site plans thus determine fundamental conditions relating to building planning laws, under which building permission is granted for building projects. A legal zoning plan is a local law (a statute), from which the rights and duties of the citizens affected are directly derived. More...