Questions and answers about neighborhood planning

Here you'll find common questions and answers related to planning matters and neighborhood planning.

List of questions

What is planning?

Planning (or a development plan) is a formal, binding plan by a municipality for the organization of community and shaping of the environment far into the future.

Planning determines how land is allocated, for example, for residential areas, vacation home communities, commerce, services, or nature conservation. It also makes decisions on the arrangement of streets and lots and sets rules for the design of individual buildings, such as the number of floors, number of residences, building materials, and roof shapes.

According to Icelandic laws, planning must ensure that land is used in an economical way with sustainable development as a guiding principle.

What will the neighborhood plan look like?

Fundamentally, a neighborhood plan is one large land-use plan for each neighborhood in the city. Reykjavík is divided into 10 districts, each containing 3–4 neighborhoods that each receive their own neighborhood plan.

In total, there will be 29 neighborhood development plans in Reykjavík, which will replace the thousands of current land-use plans for various sites and streets within the city.

The neighborhood plan will be presented in policy-driven text and outline plans, including general rules and provisions for the neighborhood: the character of the community, building permits, heights of buildings, transportation patterns, and other aspects. Each neighborhood plan will be unique as the districts of the city are different and have various needs and goals for the future.

Why do we need neighborhood plans?

The Reykjavík Municipal Plan 2010-2030 lays out the broad strokes for shaping the city for a long time. One of the main objectives of the municipal plan is the policy that all city neighborhoods should become more sustainable and people-friendly and prioritize the quality of the human made environment.

The neighborhood plan plays a crucial role in implementing the municipal plan's strategy and further detailing its goals. With one comprehensive plan for each neighborhood, it will be easier for residents and businesses to apply for various projects and changes to their own property within the framework of the neighborhood plan, without the need for costly and time-consuming changes to the current plan. At the same time, the neighborhood plan consolidates existing land-use plans and provisions into one comprehensive plan for each neighborhood. This significantly simplifies the creation and follow-up of plans for each neighborhood.

The neighborhoods in Reykjavík are in different positions depending on what was assessed, such as access to shopping and services, public transportation, open spaces, diverse housing, and so on. In creating neighborhood plans, there is an emphasis on highlighting the strengths of each neighborhood and addressing any weaknesses that may be present in the current plan.

What is the benefit?

The challenges in the neighborhoods vary, but the neighborhood plan takes into account the needs of residents in each neighborhood. Residents are asked to participate in the planning process since they can be considered experts in their own neighborhoods and have the welfare of the community in mind.

The neighborhood plan is designed to make it easier for residents to carry out any type of work on their properties. This is achieved by simplifying planning and construction permits for city neighborhood and improving access to information about current planning permissions.

Additionally, neighborhood plans can have various positive effects on residents' daily lives. An important part of the neighborhood plan is to strengthen neighborhood centers, creating opportunities for thriving commerce and services within walking distance in each neighborhood. This leads to better transportation, more vibrant neighborhoods, and enhanced uniqueness of each area.

How is the neighborhood plan created?

The neighborhood plan is created in close consultation with residents and stakeholders. Each district has a team of planning advisers working with the City's experts to shape proposals for neighborhood plans.

The planning process can be roughly divided into three phases. In the first phase, ideas are sought from residents and stakeholders, and the results of that work are used to develop initial planning proposals. In the second phase, draft proposals are presented and comments are solicited before the final proposals are shaped and presented in the third phase of the planning process.

How does the neighborhood plan work?

The neighborhood plan is a land-use plan that covers an entire neighborhood and all planning aspects that need to be addressed within the neighborhood. It replaces older land-use plans that are up to 60 years old and have become outdated. Each neighborhood is divided into units called condition units.

Condition units are a cluster of buildings, lots, and/or urban environments in a defined area within a neighborhood related by historical, geographical, technical, and/or aesthetic reasons, see key terms of the neighborhood plan. There can be many condition units within each neighborhood. Special condition units are for schools and preschools, open areas, and service areas. Each condition unit is described and set with conditions on key aspects such as operations, building volume, layout of lots, maintenance, technical equipment, cityscape conservation (where applicable), waste handling, vegetation, noise and pollution environment, lighting environment, transportation, and so on.

What are the neighborhood plan guidelines?

An important part of the neighborhood plan are the guidelines which provide detailed discussion on concepts and issues addressed in the neighborhood plan's conditions. They are intended to provide more detailed implementation of the terms and City authorities' policies but also to guide and educate on individual implementations. Guidelines are not tied to individual condition units but are universal and apply to all neighborhoods.