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The Origin, Evolution, and Competency Framework of Territorial Planning in Spain

The concept of Territorial Planning (OT) in Spain evolved in the early 20th century, closely following developments in Europe and North America. Two predominant models influenced Spain's approach: the centralized and economic-focused French model, and the decentralized, physically planned, and sectoral policy-coordinated German model. Spain largely adopted the German model, with OT gaining prominence in the early 20th century, particularly in the 1990s through regional legislation.

This development was the result of a fusion of experiences from urban planning, regional development policies, international planning processes, and European Union documents, such as the European Territorial Strategy (1999). This strategy emphasized the importance of balanced city systems, equal access to infrastructure and knowledge, and sustainable development through prudent environmental and cultural heritage management.

The concept of Territorial Planning was first introduced in Spain's 1975 Land Regime Law. It included the creation of the first territorial planning instruments called Territorial Coordination Master Plans, which could have supra-provincial, provincial, or regional scopes. These plans covered various aspects, including the distribution of land use, defense zones for national security, protection measures for land conservation, and the location of essential infrastructure.

The post-1975 era saw several planning experiences, such as Economic Development Plans, Agrarian Colonization Plans, and the Territorial Coordination Master Plans introduced by the 1975 law. Each of these played a role in shaping Spain's approach to Territorial Planning.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 granted autonomy to the regions (Comunidades Autónomas) to assume competencies in territorial planning, urbanism, and housing. This constitutional recognition established Territorial Planning as a separate and distinct area of governance for regions, although it didn't explicitly define its content, leaving it open to regional interpretation.

Since 1983, all regions in Spain have enacted instrumental laws on Territorial Planning, with the majority of Statutes of Autonomy granting exclusive competency to the regions. However, these competencies are subject to certain limits, including respecting state competencies (e.g., Port Law, Roads Law) and local competencies.

The Law of Territorial Planning (LOTA) came into effect in 1994 and was subsequently replaced by the Law of Territorial and Urban Sustainability (LISTA) in December 2021, which currently regulates territorial planning in Spain.

In 2007, Spain enacted the State Land Law, with the latest version being the Revised Text of the Land and Urban Rehabilitation Law of 2015. This law emphasizes that territorial planning and urbanism are public functions that organize and define land and territory use in the public interest.

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