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The overarching strategy of spatial development of Poland


The National Spatial Development Concept 2030 (NSDC 2030) is the most important national strategic document that addresses the spatial planning management of Poland. Sea space is present under all objectives of the NSDC, if appropriate, and it is divided into two functional zones: the EEZ and the coastal zone (both sea and land) for which different spatial development measures have been proposed.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • Are there samples of sea-basins where joint visions /aims have been developed for MSP?
  • How shall Maritime Spatial Plans integrate with land-use plans?

Implementation Context

The National Spatial Development Concept 2030 (NSDC 2030) is the most important national strategic document that addresses the spatial planning management of Poland. It has been developed in accordance with the Act on Spatial Planning and Area Development of 27 March 2003.

This document presents a vision of spatial development of Poland till 2030, defines goals and objectives of the national spatial development policy to facilitate its implementation as well as provides for the rules and mechanisms for coordination and implementation of public development policies featuring a significant territorial impact.

The elaboration process started in 2008 when a background expert report (fig. 1) was delivered which through public debate paved the way to the governmental draft. The final report named NSDC 2030 was approved as a result of intensive Poland-wide debate, by the Council of Ministers on 13 December 201.

This image shows the NSDC preparatory process prior to the public debate

The NSDC is of a legally binding character for national administration tier and it exerts a direct influence on spatial plans of Polish regional self-governments. It specifies actions to be taken by Ministers and other public entities, and their detailed implementation schedule. The NSDC is a vehicle  for strengthening of and injecting territorial dimension into the mainstream of national and regional development policies. It ensures implementation of the developmental goals on lower governmental levels and secures the territorial approach in all governmental documents.

Aspects / Objectives

The vision of spatial development of Poland is based on five desirable characteristics of the Polish territory: competitiveness, innovation, internal cohesion, biological richness and diversity, security and spatial order (fig.2).

This image shows the key pillars constituting the vision of spatial development of Poland

The key objective spelled out in NSDC is : “To effectively use the country space and its territorially diversified development potentials to achieve overall development objectives – competitiveness, increased employment, efficiency of the state and long-term social, economic and territorial cohesion.”

Tackling the problem of national spatial development as proposed in NSDC 2030 involves the changed perception of the role of the nationwide spatial policy in the implementation of the goals defined. Therefore, the NSDC is an element of a broader strategic planning framework in the country (fig. 3).

This image shows the system of strategic programming in Poland

NSDC 2030 suggests breaking with a current dichotomy of spatial planning and socio-economic planning at the national, regional and local levels as well as in relation to functional areas. It correlates the objectives of the spatial policy and the regional policy, combines strategic planning with the programming of measures under development programmes and operational programmes co-financed from the EU, defines actions to be taken by the state in the legislative and institutional domains with a view to enhancing the efficiency of the spatial planning system and place-based development activities (including investment projects).

But the key novelty is that NSDC 2030 has been one of the first spatial strategic documents among  EU member states that included the maritime space  into the mainstream spatial planning and extended the scope of cross-border interactions on land to the sea.


The sea areas were included in the various  aspects and sections of the NSDC. First of all sea space was taken into consideration in the analytical part in which different spatial conditions of development were assessed. Separate analysis on the current use and  future development of the  Polish sea areas was contracted by the Ministry in the diagnostic stage. This analysis  was then debated with authors of other types of diagnosis to enable presence of the sea space in their thinking. This was achieved with different degree of success but sea space occurred to be very prominent in such spatial topics like renewable energy, natural resources, ecological networks or transport. Thus the diagnostic maps were  enriched with the sea space and sea space clearly entered many diagnostic deliberations. 

Secondly, the sea space became an important part of the overall vision. This can be considered as an awareness raising exercise that sea is important part of the  Polish space. Sea space was mentioned in several parts of the visionary statement mainly in the context of environmental protection, blue growth but also as a challenge for the current spatial planning system. Some key quotations are given below for illustration. 

“Benefits of the seaside location of the country are used for its socio-economic development. And marine and terrestrial areas are developed jointly and in a rational manner, respecting biodiversity and environmental protection rules. This leads to the introduction of integrated planning approach for ensuring the long-term exploitation of natural resources and development of the potential of the Baltic Sea and its coast. New forms of the usage of the maritime areas such as renewable off-shore energy, mariculture for the purpose of environmental protection and maritime tourism are enhanced.”
“Integrated conservation is extended to the marine areas, and it encompasses both valuable habitats and connecting them corridors, as well as maritime landscapes and underwater cultural heritage”
“In the northern part of Poland  security of energy supply has been improved as a result of the installation of /.../ offshore wind power plants”
“Legislative framework for spatial planning in 2030 is clear, consistent and stable. The system covers  both land and sea areas of Poland.”

The visionary maps were  enriched with the sea space.  An example is shown in the output section.

Thirdly sea space was included under key objectives. For instance under the second NSDC objective “To enhance internal cohesion and balance the territorial development of the country across regions by promoting functional integration, creating conditions for spreading development factors, multifunctional development of rural areas and using the internal potentials of all territories” attention was paid to the sea borders and  its influence on coherence of broader functional areas under jurisdiction of different countries.  Under objective no. 2 “To improve Poland’s connectivity in different dimensions by developing transport and  telecommunications infrastructure” sea was treated rather conventionally as an important area linking Poland with other countries and with the world. Priority was given to securing access to key Polish ports and harbours. Under priority no. 4 “To develop spatial structures supporting the achievement and preservation of Poland’s high-quality natural environment and landscape” sea space was addressed frequently in the context of ecological connectivity i.e. green networks (connecting also land and sea),  preservation of landscapes  (Landscape Convention), and some regulating ecosystem services (sea as a place of removal of biogenes). Under priority no. 5 “To enhance spatial structure’s resistance to natural disasters and loss of energy security and to develop spatial structures supporting national defence capabilities” sea space was regarded in the context of renewable energy sources, energy security (pipelines connecting Poland with other countries) as well as in the context of  protection against extreme natural and man-made disasters. Defence of the sea coast was named as important measure in the context of climate change adaptation/ As the results it seems that in Polish maritime spatial plans resources of the sand will be mainly secured for the coastal defence. In the priority no 6 aiming at “restoring and consolidating spatial order” a need to introduce MSP that should be integrated   i.e. cross-sectoral and integrating sea and land was underlined. It was stipulated that  “While planning marine areas one should take  into account not only the shipping, national defence, environmental protection and fisheries, but also, artificial islands, other structures and installations, submarine cables and pipelines, research needs and exploration of mineral resources.”

The maps illustrating the NSDC objectives were enriched with the sea space. Two  examples are shown in the Main Outputs/Results section below.

Fourthly sea space  was considered as two separate functional areas: EEZ and land section of the coast plus territorial waters. Both functional areas were characterised in spatial  terms (description for the second functional area is cited below for illustration)

“One of the specific types of functional areas are land areas at the interface between land and sea. The coastal zone due to the lack of physical barriers to mutually linked anthropogenic and natural interactions and impacts is a specific area that requires coordination, especially in conflict resolution and producing sea related socio-economic and environmental benefits. The introduction of country-level planning of the coastal zone ensures an adequate level of integration of maritime policy of the country and development of activities provided in  regional and national plans. This will also enable the development of coherent spatial plans of marine areas coordinated with the spatial planning of land areas inscribed in a hierarchical system of national planning.”

For both sea related functional areas special spatial measures tailored to their needs were proposed. The measures covered preparation of separate spatial plans for EEZ and terrestrial waters, and preparation of study of spatial conditions of  the land-sea interface integrating sea and terrestrial space. Since maritime spatial plans are described in many sources a citation from NSDC  introducing the role of the aforesaid study of spatial conditions is provided below.

“The study will cover spatial aspects of social and  economic development and environmental protection of the land-sea interface, enhancing by that its sustainable development through:

  • strengthening the role of the Polish coast in development of national transport, communications and energy systems,
  • the economic use of the sea areas respecting  environmental and ecological conditions,
  • systemic measures to protect the coastline from the erosion and the threat of flooding and storm surges
  • implementing the Polish international commitments in the field of environmental protection, in particular the protection of the waters of the Baltic Sea, measures to improve water quality of coastal areas and rivers flowing into the Baltic Sea.”

Such study was developed in 2014 in slightly different format (i.e. encompassing terrestrial part of the coastal areas but also territorial waters and EEZ but it was deprived (proposed in NSDC) its binding character for coastal municipalities). Study was developed  on the initiative of Polish maritime administration. However, this is a separate good practice (link here).


Main Outputs / Results

The key results were following:

  • visualization of the fact that sea space is an important part of the Polish space and that many key issues for country development require sea space. For details please see some maps provided below as illustration. Figure 4 is related to vision, figures 5 and 6 to the NSDC spatial objectives.
  • introduction of the sea space into the realm of  spatial planning in Poland and providing sea space with some key axiological thoughts (how this space should be developed). Those thoughts, priorities and objective have then been transformed into goals and aims  of pilot spatial plans in Poland.
  • providing organisational frames for integrating sea and terrestrial spatial planning and  establishing some obligations how this should be done in practice (e.g. through elaboration of maritime spatial plans, their coordination with terrestrial plans and through  study of spatial conditions of  the land-sea interface).
  • mobilising and enhancing structural and investments funds to support MSP in Poland.

This image shows the vision of the energy system (NDSC)
This image shows the objectives related to ensuring energy security
This image shows the outline of spatial policies for ecologically valuable functional areas


This practice is applicable in any country in which strategic spatial programming exists at national level.

Contact Person

Kinga Stanczuk-Olejnik

E-mail: (Kinga[dot]Stanczuk-Olejnik[at]mr[dot]gov[dot]pl)

Responsible Entity

Spatial Dimension Unit
Department of Development Strategy
Polish Ministry of Economic Development

Costs / Funding Source