Man and his well-being as well as his interaction with the environment are the central concern of regional/spatial planning, its aims being to provide each individual with an environment and quality of life conducive to the development of his personality in surroundings planned on a human scale. Regional/spatial planning should be democratic, comprehensive, functional and oriented towards the longer term.
Spatial planning should promote sustainable land use while ensuring a more balanced geographical distribution of economic activities. It should help avoid excessive pressure on certain parts of the territory and take account of ecological requirements everywhere.
Spatial planning can play an important role, in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity across an entire territory: a) at the local and regional level, by pointing out the benefits to be expected from sustainable land-use -notably in socio economic terms- when it can facilitate partnership between the local/regional authorities, economic actors, local and indigenous communities, NGOs and biodiversity conservators; and b) at the strategic level, spatial planning highlights the inter-linkage between the different tiers of Government and between different policies competing for the same natural resources. Spatial planning means setting out a common set of longer term objectives to be carried out through mutually compatible measures tailored to the socio-economic and environmental characteristics of the space to which they apply.
Spatial planning initiatives should pay particular attention to: ecological corridors and buffer zones; unprotected and sensitive areas with high levels of biodiversity such as mountains, coastal areas and islands, and rural areas in order to ensure better synergy between economic and conservation objectives. In coastal zones spatial planning must incorporate both land and sea activities, and at borders, coordination between countries.
In 1983 The European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT) adopted a European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter. Following on from the European Architectural Heritage Charter, the Soil Charter and the Water Charter promulgated in recent years by the Council of Europe, the European Regional Planning Charter defines, for the first time, the major Europe-wide objectives that should underlie policies for spatial planning, improvement of the quality of life, and the organisation of human activities in the physical space of Europe. The Council of Europe is in the process of developing the 'Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European continent' which it expects to be adopted by CEMAT in Hanover in September 2000.