Cities in Transition: Globalization, Political Change and Urban Development: 83 (GeoJournal Library)

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In this assessment the position of urban forest protection standards within basic land use planning documents is also included. Overview and assessment of the value framework for urban forest protection in national policy documents. This phase of the research relies on reviewing and analysing both the primary literature laws, strategies and other public documents and secondary sources dealing with issues of the planning system for urban forest protection.

The meso-level looks at the procedures for cooperation between institutions of the land use planning process on the local level, related to urban forest management in Serbia. Institutions are observed from the national to the local levels through the lens of multilevel governance. Arrangements for collaboration that includes insight into both the horizontal and the vertical levels. This segment of the research relies primarily on a review of primary literature that sets out organisational powers while also considering secondary documents devoted to how land use planning and urban forest management policies are made.

The micro-level entails a detailed review and assessment of the land use planning process in relation to urban forest protection in selected examples of land use planning practice on the local level. It is focused on analysis of activities of concrete cases of planning practices, where formal and informal institutional arrangements in the planning process are observed. The cases of planning practice are concrete solutions for the use of space viewed through the enacted policies and regulations. The accent here is on the description and analysis of the procedure of land use planning in terms of decision-making by the stakeholders public, private and civil sector involved that employ various mechanisms, instruments and actions.

Both policy-related and regulatory planning solutions are analysed equally. The criteria for the selection of the cases were the following. The methodological procedure shown is seen as suitable for institutional assessment as it emphasises case development factors linked to the context, in the same manner as institutional theory links norms and procedures to the broader institutional landscape [ 43 ]. In socialist Yugoslavia, green open spaces were considered a public resource and were, as such, accorded particular attention by urban planners.

The fundamental political, social and economic reforms pursued at the time, accompanied by the establishment of a new constitutional and legal order by the communist regime, declared which cities and urban settlements stood to be social property and excluded them from legal transactions.

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In consequence, any extension of the urban territory automatically made new land socially owned. Land use plans served as direct instruments for these transformations and were employed to put public interest into effect in actual space [ 44 , 45 ]. Although the trend under state socialism was to make forest land socially owned as well, forests could be owned by the state, cooperatives or private individuals.

Nevertheless, all forests, regardless of ownership, were declared to be of general interest to the community and were placed under government protection [ 46 ]. This made the preservation of forests and forest land a matter of public interest, and a system of safeguards was designed and implemented across all levels of governance to attain this objective.


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Difficulties encountered by post-socialist countries in transitional processes [ 47 ] are inseparably linked to the crucial issues of changes to the value system and established norms [ 48 , 49 ]. Private property, instituted by the changes as a new form of land ownership, has brought about a major shift in traditional patterns of land use planning. Private interests, needs and expectations of how land is to be used have gained legitimacy and so become major factors in land-related policy-making.

In these circumstances, pressure has increased to allow construction on greenfield land, where developers do not incur additional costs when investing. Therefore, in a democratising society facing privatisation and the construction of market institutions, land use planning has become both a tool to safeguard property rights and interests of various land use stakeholders and an instrument to correct for market failure [ 44 ]. Institutional changes characteristic of post-socialist transition altered the value basis for planning, which also caused a shift in the planning paradigm [ 50 ].

Lacking a common planning system model they could employ, post-socialist countries have developed their own approaches to institutional transformation [ 51 ]. The issue of public interest in planning has remained ill-defined in Serbia following the democratic changes of Urban plans have endeavoured to protect interests by defining public land, public areas and public buildings, but the protection of other, privately owned land remained subject to political decision-making and mechanisms intended to safeguard public interest.

As such, issues including protection of public spaces, the environment, public health and security, energy efficiency, etc. By contrast, the EU accession process has placed a number of new demands before the practice of environmental planning. Chapter 27 envisages the creation of a sustainable environmental management system, which cuts across all policy sectors and constitutes a value framework for their formulation [ 55 ]. In addition to the requirements of the negotiations process, other instruments pertaining more directly to the preservation of green open spaces also affect the harmonisation of the Serbian regulatory framework with the European context.

One major such document is the European Landscape Convention [ 56 ], ratified by Serbia in [ 57 ]. An innovation introduced in the Convention is the understanding of landscape as a dynamic category that evolves with societal change. This approach means that landscape-related planning activity can no longer be subject only to deliberation by specialised technical bodies, but that landscape development policies must be enacted through democratic dialogue wherein all stakeholders are able to present their perceptions and views of the future of landscape [ 56 ].

On the other hand, the changes brought about by transition commenced a decentralisation process in which the local level became involved in decision-making about environmental protection policies.


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The EU accession process explicitly requires the adoption of standards to allow equal participation of all the various stakeholders in decision-making and reduce the scope for conflict between interests and preferences for protected spaces [ 58 ], as is confirmed in the ARHUS convention ratified by Serbian law [ 59 ]. This accords with the concept of governance, which promotes the establishment of diverse forms of cooperation, partnership agreements, delegation of authority and greater powers of the local community.

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Good governance entails the management of protected areas pursuant to the principles and values chosen by all stakeholders. As part of societal and cultural heritage, these principles are modified in accordance with globally recognised requirements and become integral parts of constitutions, laws and other legal enactments that regulate nature protection. However, most powers and responsibilities remain within the remits of governments and their agencies [ 60 ].

As yet, Serbia has not enacted legislation that specifically supports planning for the system of green spaces as a separate and autonomous domain. The Law on the Protection and Improvement of Green Spaces has remained at the drafting stage for a number of years [ 61 , 62 ]. Furthermore, a project by the Serbian Association of Landscape Architects, supported by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, that besides requiring spatial and urban plans to acknowledge and recognise existing greenery, green spaces, spaces close to nature and ecosystems, stressed the importance of the institutional framework at the local government level related to management, maintenance and reconstruction of urban green spaces [ 63 ].

The lack of an appropriate statutory and planning basis is compounded by the absence in Serbia of guidelines and recommendations for planning green spaces. In Serbia, the powers for managing, safeguarding and improving forests in urban areas see Table 1 in essence reside predominantly within two policy departments: the environment and planning. At the national level, the responsible institutions are the Government of Serbia and the Nature Conservation Institute, tasked with conservation activities, as well as the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Construction, Transportation and Infrastructure.

These ministries are charged with the development of the national statutory framework for planning and protecting urban forests. The key regulations for urban forests protection are a set of planning laws that govern norms for establishing land use balance in the context of the regulation of property rights to land i. The relevant nature conservation laws govern standards for the protection, management and use of urban forests.

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There is no regional governance level in Serbia, so only the Provincial Nature Conservation Institute with powers in the Province of Vojvodina is the only formal regional body. At the local level, urban forests are managed by local state-owned enterprises, established independently by local authorities depending on their size, status and resources. However, powers are often dispersed amongst different organisations and departments, as well as between various levels of governance.

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So, for instance, in Belgrade, the capital city, the state-owned enterprise manages Nevertheless, local land use planning has the greatest impact on urban forest protection. Land use planning, one of the most important components of planning in Serbia, is regulated chiefly by the Planning and Construction Law [ 67 ], which envisages two spatial governance instruments: Spatial Plans, more focused on the strategic orientation of development, and Urban Plans, more land use oriented with some elements of an integrated approach.

Urban Plans are the most common instruments of local land use planning and are divided into three categories: a General Urban Plans, mostly oriented towards strategic aspects; b General Zoning Plans; and c Detailed Zoning Plans, mainly devoted to technical aspects. Land use maps and technical parameters, such as rules of planning and rules of construction, are integral parts of Urban Plans. These land use maps are effective instruments for designating land of public interest, as they formally distinguish between development land land designated for construction and other land, which is as a rule publicly held [ 67 ].

The Serbian planning system is characterised by a tradition of land use planning [ 68 ] that is based exclusively on regulation and where plans are rigid instruments that set out long-term land use, architectural and aesthetic standards, and landscape and natural resource protection rules [ 69 ]. Achieving land use balance is a core task of the planning process in Serbia. So, for instance, the first Spatial Plan of the Republic of Serbia provided for three key categories of land use as the bases for striking balance in spatial development: agriculture, forests and land for other uses [ 80 ].

With a total surface of Table 2 presents an overview of the basic value framework for urban forest protection in Serbia. It reveals the extent to which strategic documents address issues of planning and managing urban forests. The highlight here is that forests are recognised as notable finite natural resources that are important for preserving biodiversity, amongst other considerations. As such, the policy documents provide significant frameworks that guide forest development and protection, in particular to ensure alignment with EU rules and institutional strengthening.

Indirectly, it is noteworthy for urban forests protection that the value framework acknowledges the social and cultural functions of forests in addition to protective and regulatory ones. The organisational structure of institutions for land use planning related to urban forest management in Serbia is analysed through three aspects: position, powers and roles. Position: Institutions of formal importance for land use planning related to urban forest management reside at the national and the local level Figure 1.

There are no institutional powers at the regional level, except for the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, and as such these cannot be considered to be a general rule.