WIT Press

Integrating Environmental Issues Into The Portuguese Planning System – 10 Years Of Emerging Challenges And Persistent Problems


Free (open access)








358 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


T. Fidelis


It is frequently stated that land-use planning in Portugal has not only been unable to prevent environmental problems but that it has, itself, contributed to other ones. These include urban sprawl and the destruction of natural areas. Environmental problems related to land-use planning constitute an emerging concern in Portuguese society and explain part of the relevance attributed to planning by the Constitution and by an important body of legislation. This article analyses two main sides of such evolution. Firstly, the recent legislation establishing the Portuguese planning system and its weaknesses regarding the integration of environmental concerns. Secondly, the main features of current planning practice and development control as well as the way environmental problems have been dealt with. The article argues that, despite consolidation of the planning system, land-use plans still remain, practically, a series of regulations dominated by geometric and volumetric issues, legitimising a mechanized decision-making process, and leaving aside issues weakly dealt with in plans such as environmental matters. The analysis showed that the evolution of the planning system has not resulted from an internal process of critical assessment about the experience gathered. On the contrary, it has resulted from external pressures, which have led, mainly, to the mere addition of new types of plans to the system. In spite of approaches and tutelage, they do not necessarily represent a real modernization of the planning system and practice able to promote full and systematic integration of land-use, development control and environmental concerns. Keywords: planning system, legislation, environment, sustainable development, Portugal.


planning system, legislation, environment, sustainable development, Portugal.