‘Spatial planning’ is a phrase that now resonates throughout many planning systems across the globe (Friedmann, 2004). Spatial planning is defined, according to the UK government, as 'going beyond traditional land use planning to bring together and integrate policies for the development and use of land with other policies and programs which influence the nature of places and how they function' (Winchester City Council website, 2010). These other factors include management of change, involving policy-making, policy integration, community participation, agency stakeholding and development management (Tewdwr-Jones et al, 2010). Spatial planning is concerned with ‘the problem of coordination or integration of the spatial dimension of sectoral policies through a territorially-based strategy’ (Cullingworth and Nadin, 2006).
Spatial planning means different things in different countries/states and can be applied on various levels, such as locally, regionally, nationally and globally. For example, the French interpretation is ‘regional economic planning’, whilst the Dutch perception emphasises the management of scarce resources with high public sector involvement. This variance in the meaning of the term itself may cause its relevance to be redundant in a global context and it is dependent on ‘planning cultures’.
In the EU, spatial planning is a generic term that does not reflect the management of spatial development in any particular state. However, the general goal is for it to help achieve better organisation of land uses, the balance of development with amenity, the achievement of socioeconomic aims and to achieve a more even distribution of economic development (Geneva Report, 2008).