Citizen’s voice in urban planning

Donor: System Innovation Learning Partnership 
Partnerrs: City of Kragujevac, Faculty of Geography, University of Belgrade
Beneficiaries: Citizens, cities and municipalities
Period of realization: 
June 2023 – May 2024

The most important spatial and zoning plans in the Republic of Serbia that directly influence the patterns of economic development and the quality of life of its citizens include Local Master Plans, land use, zoning regulations, and development plans. Most of these urban planning documents fall under the responsibility of local authorities, and the process of their initiation, preparation, adoption, and implementation is regulated by the Law on Planning and Construction and the Regulation on the Content, Method, and Procedure for the Preparation of Documents for Spatial and Zoning Planning.

While the Law on Planning and Construction explicitly outlines provisions for public participation, there are several shortcomings within the current procedure:

  • The primary issue lies in the method of plan dissemination, which relies on daily and local newspapers as well as the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia - platforms that citizens typically do not routinely engage with. Additionally, citizens rearly visit local governments' websites, leading to a lack of awareness about the planning process in a timely manner.
  • Furthermore, there is a challenge posed by the requirement to submit comments and objections solely in written form through the registry office.
  • Another drawback lies in the fact that, even if citizens are inclined to participate, they often lack the professional expertise and understanding of the procedure, making it challenging to formulate comments that would be deemed valid and influential in altering the proposed plan. Consequently, citizens may either be deterred from participating or may submit comments in a manner that lacks a solid legal foundation and explanation, leading to the dismissal of such feedback.
  • A further issue with the delayed engagement of the interested public arises in situations where the local self-government has already approved a higher-level plan (e.g., the General Regulation Plan for a broader area) that specifies land use or certain urban parameters. This occurs when a lower-level plan is proposed by a private investor (e.g., the Detailed Regulation Plan) in alignment with the higher-level plan. In such instances, citizens often attempt to get involved only after a considerable amount of time has passed, either due to a lack of interest or insufficient information. This results in their involvement occurring too late in the planning process.

The goal of this project is to enhance public participation in the formulation and approval of spatial and urban plans under the jurisdiction of local governments, ensuring that the planning system more accurately aligns with the genuine requirements of citizens and the developmental capacity of local communities.


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