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Spatial planning mediates between the respective claims on space of the state, market, and community. In so doing, three different mechanisms of involving stakeholders, integrating sectoral policies and promoting development projects mark the three schools of transformative strategy formulation, innovation action and performance in spatial planning
Spatial planning systems refer to the methods and approaches used by the public and private sector to influence the distribution of people and activities in spaces of various scales. Spatial planning can be defined as the coordination of practices and policies affecting spatial organization. Spatial planning is synonymous with the practices of urban planning in the United States but at larger scales and the term is often used in reference to planning efforts in European countries. Discrete professional disciplines which involve spatial planning include land use, urban, regional, transport and environmental planning. Other related areas are also important, including economic and community planning, as well as maritime spatial planning. Spatial planning takes place on local, regional, national and inter-national levels and often results in the creation of a spatial plan.
An early definition of spatial planning comes from the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter (often called the 'Torremolinos Charter'), adopted in 1983 by the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT): "Regional/spatial planning gives geographical expression to the economic, social, cultural and ecological policies of society. It is at the same time a scientific discipline, an administrative technique and a policy developed as an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach directed towards a balanced regional development and the physical organisation of space according to an overall strategy."
Numerous planning systems exist around the world. The form of planning largely diverges and co-evolves with societies and their governance systems. Every country, and states within those countries, have a unique planning systems that is made up by different actors, different planning perspectives and a particular institutional framework. Perspectives, actors and institutions change over time, influencing both the form and the impact of spatial planning. Especially in Northwestern Europe spatial planning has evolved greatly since the late 1950s. Until the 1990s, the term ‘spatial’ was used primarily to refer to the way that planning should deal with more than simply zoning, land use planning, or the design of the physical form of cities or regions, but also should address the more complex issues of the spatial relationship of activities such as employment, homes and leisure uses.