Urban Planning System in Albania, need for Strategic Approaches

Flamur Kuçi

Professionals and authorities realize that there is need for a change in order to cope with the urban life problems that have emerged. The first block attempt basically to answer to the question “Why strategic planning was not used in Albania before?”, while in the second block a description of the situation after 1990, is done. In the summary of both periods, the attempt is to come with some relevant findings on “What are the main weak points of the planning system, and what does not work?” , while “Why strategic planning is needed in the actual planning system?” ... This is understandable as far the overall aim of the authors is in fact is to generate the discussion “whether we need or not to introduce new approaches in our planning system” and the paper helps them in giving some systematic arguments in regards. The central regions within the triangle Durrësi-Tirana-Fush Kruja, at that time resulted with the lions share of social-economic potentials of the country, becoming in this way very attractive for the population of rural areas and small provincial towns with increasing needs for infrastructure and services. The plans are physical development based reflecting the ‘allocative’ approach, which means that plans are expected only to allocate space and infrastructure for a number of population already strictly defined. As far as the land and building ownership issues are concerned, should be emphasized that until 1990 there has taken place several changes, which has had obviously implications in the urban planning system in Albania. The sector of infrastructure provision as all other sectors was strictly under the state control, which means that the state was responsible for the provision of all kind of infrastructure (and no other sector was neither in place, nor allowed) in the entire chain; projection, investment, supplying and maintenance. Despite this fact should be emphasized that structure of entities providing infrastructure was very centralized, which means that the budget was designed centrally, while local structures were in charge to only execute, which means that the level of decision making was minimal. Due to the fact that (i) only one sector was providing the entire infrastructure, (ii) everything was centralized, and (iii) Albania was promoted as a country where the citizens do not pay taxes, one can easily realized that efficiency, effectiveness and marketing needs were not in the basis of the system. After 1990, in the Albanian urban reality it is very easy to realize that while private investors are interested to use (not necessary to develop) each square meter of the plot, while the public, citizens and community require more living space for a human dimension city, green areas, playgrounds etc. It is also very easy to realize that in the last tend years also a phenomenon of switching from a “state responsible for everything” situation, into a “non responsible” (or sometimes irresponsible) state has taken place. One of the most relevant problems identified in the urban planning system is the fact that our system does miss the “strategic” element, behavior and way of thinking in designing the urban function and making the appropriate decisions to influence the livability of the urban areas. Indeed, there is no tradition in formulating flexible strategies to deal with a diverse environment and furthermore there is no yet professional debate about the problems that the system encounters and possible solutions. Also in the last ten years, other problems emerged as part of the new reality of our country related also to the political and social dynamics that faced the Albanian society. Obviously, in order to expect urban planning system to cope with the\ problematique of the new urban reality of Albania it is believed that should start a process of reforming the entire system aiming the integration of the strategic concepts in the process of planning. In this respect together with the private sector, local governments are expected to address the need for new approaches to the planning entities and to the central government. The switch from a situation where ‘state does everything’ into an environment where the government is expected ‘to enable development’ should be accompanied with strategic way of thinking, flexible plans that leave room for a say from different actors and factors and do not provide ‘blue print’ solutions. One of the main questions that should be addressed is related to the way to introduce a new element, way of thinking and approach in the urban planning system. Indeed “strategic planning” deal with three dimensions; it is an element in terms of legal framework and institutions, it deals with the methodology when considered an approach and, last but not least, deals with the mentality of the professionals when considered way of thinking. Therefore, there would be needed to start a process of professional debate on the reforming the entire system (partial solution would not work) aiming at the integration of the strategic planning approach in our spatial planning methodology.