Spatial planning

Project stage description: 

At the project stage of Spatial planning the project developers identify an appropriate corridor for the newly developed grid line. The procedure can differ by Member States. Commonly, the project developers will have elaborated different corridor alternatives for the new grid line and present their application to the Public Authorities (e.g. in an application conference). 

This is followed by a public consultation process which starts with the announcement of the project, the publication of a communication strategy in local newspapers and an invitation of relevant stakeholders to take part in the public consultation process. The aim is to discuss the corridor options and all matters around corridors in terms of environment (Strategic environmental assessment (SEA)), landscapes, land use and views and other relevant factors that can influence a decision on a certain corridor. 

All events, procedures and public consultations should be announced on the internet as well as in public newspapers. At the end of this project stage, a final route corridor with a limited width (e.g. 500—1000 metres in Germany) will be identified which completes the application documents for the final Permitting stage.

As the corridor is narrowed down which helps to get an idea of which Land owners and communities are likely to be affected by the grid development project, public awareness is rising all along the potential project corridors at this stage. For TSOs, it is important to meet the public need for information and start a dialogue with all relevant stakeholders through appropriate channels.

A rise in public awareness will usually lead to a rise in public opposition. To avoid conflicts, all stakeholders should be aware of what to expect from each other and play their "role". For example, politicians and other decision makers are responsible for the general decisions of the grid line – the TSOs usually does not decide on the general Need or the technology used.

Potentially affected citizens and communities should be aware that the TSO is unable to supply detailed information of the Project location at this point. Even though the corridor is narrowed down at this stage, it is not precise enough to tell about the exact location of the transmission towers.


Stakeholders involved in this stage: 
Usual patterns: 

In terms of stakeholder dialogue, the stage of Spatial planning is the first crucial project stage as public awareness starts to rise.

A dialogue with all relevant stakeholders should be started as early as possible as this has been proven to help in reducing conflicts at all the following stages.

TSOs should have developed a precise communication plan to meet the needs of public participation, information and dialogue of all relevant stakeholders. It is crucial to have an ongoing dialogue with decision makers, media and citizens.

Relevant contents are to be elaborated, events to be planned and stakeholders to be invited early.

A critical point is the public request for detailed corridor information which is not yet available at this stage as the location is still quite broadly defined. Also, as stakeholders might fear to be affected, general discussions about the need for renewable energies, new gridlines and the technology used might start at this point. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What is needed to implement the communication plan at this stage? 

  • How can a dialogue with all relevant stakeholders be developed and maintained?

Usual patterns: 

National / regional policy makers have usually been involved in the debate for longer than individual citizens; some of them might even have taken part in the decision-making of (a specific) grid development project.

For public authorities that played a role in the decision-making of grid development, it is important to support the project developers in their communication strategy and take responsibility. This means to be available for questions that might be coming from the public and explain the decisions made.

For policy makers that did not play a role in the decision-making, their main task is now to act as an intermediate between citizens, LCIs and the project developers. As these officials usually have been part of the former stages of the grid development project, they have more knowledge about the process and they have been supervising the decisions made so far, commonly representing their voters interests. It is their task now to share their experience and knowledge with the affected and/or interested population and find a way to uphold a constructive dialogue between all stakeholders.


Further project-specific questions: 
  • Have regional or national policy makers been involved in the decision-making processes for the grid development project? If so, how can they be included in the project communication strategy to explain their decisions?   

  • For all other officials: How can they share their knowledge acquired at recent project stages with affected citizens that are not familiar with the project in order to support a constructive dialogue?   

  • How can policy makers be generally included to act as intermediates between the citizens (who elected them) and the project developers in case of conflicts?

Usual patterns: 

For communities it becomes more or less definite at this stage if they are going to be adjacent to the power line or not. Now it is only a question of the actual distance. 

Land owners should be aware that the corridor is usually not narrow enough yet to tell if their land is going to be used as project land.

Public awareness and opposition is typically growing at this stage, peaking at the next stage (Permitting) when precise decisions on the power line location are made.

Having established a transparent dialogue with local stakeholders from an early stage on with important multipliers involved (Local elected officials, representatives of local associations etc) pays off now as it will help to keep a constructive dialogue upright. Events and communication tools reaching the broad local communities are now very important. 

In many cases, new Local citizens’ initiatives (LCIs) are being established at this point. Before establishing, joining or supporting a LCI, citizens of Adjacent communities should inform themselves about the LCI's goals in order to decide if they feel represented by them or not. Blocking and uncooperative LCIs that are not representing the majority of a community can be harm to the goals of all other citizens as well as the project as such. TSOs and all citizens who cannot identify with the LCI would be well-advised to keep a constructive dialogue about relevant issues ongoing.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which communities can be identified as adjacent at this project stage?   

  • Can the future dialogue be based on recent contacts with local multipliers?   

  • Which LCIs have been created in the immediate aftermath? What are their aims? Are they cooperative and constructive?   

  • Are potential LCIs supported by a broad majority of citizens? If not, how can a dialogue between TSO and all other members of the community be initiated?

Usual patterns: 

For Environmental NGOs, Spatial planning is a very important stage. They play a crucial role in the SEA procedure and are important advisers and potentially partners with the TSO when deciding on a specific narrow corridor.


Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which NGOs can be involved in the SEA and how?
Usual patterns: 

As the dialogue between the stakeholders intensifies, the role of the media rises at this stage. For all parties they are both source of information and communication tool.

Certain types of media are meant to be objective and independent, while others are more opinionated. During this "hot" stage of the grid development process, biased reporting – coloured by any of the potentially conflicting stakeholders – can sometimes increase the conflict and hamper a constructive solution-orientated dialogue.

Regardless of whether information is presented neutrally or to support an opinion, the reporting should be informative, accurate and well-researched. Comments and opinions from other stakeholders should clearly be identifiable as such.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • How can the media be supplied with facts and information needed to report objectively and provide well-researched information? 

Typical channels to use in communication: 
Essential content communicated: 
Usual patterns: 

There is a need to inform the other stakeholders about the nature and intention of the project developers.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • How can the Technical details be communicated in a comprehensive manner?
Usual patterns: 

There is a need to inform the other stakeholders about the nature and intention of the project developers.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What is the information already possessed by other stakeholders about the project developers? 
Usual patterns: 

As the corridor is still too broad to define the finally affected Land owners and communities, Compensation measures cannot be conclusively discussed.

The possibility as well as the potential scope of Compensation measures can be communicated at this stage.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Are there any legal constraints to Compensation measure?  

  • What concepts can be developed to compensate affected individuals or communities?