Danish land-use planning

In Denmark, land-use planning is implemented at three levels:

  • national state plans;
  • municipal plans (structure plan); and
  • local development plans.

National land use is regulated in the Danish Planning Act and in national state plans. The Planning Act was issued by the Danish Parliament in 1991 and has since that time been subject to several revisions and amendments. The act currently in force is from 2018.

Local and more specific land-use planning is based within the Danish municipalities (98 municipalities in total).

In the municipal plan the future development of land use within the municipality is described, and the overall guidelines regarding land use for properties are appointed.

With reference to the municipal plan, the municipality can adopt local development plans, covering smaller areas within the municipality and containing more specific regulation regarding use of the area, heights of buildings, plot ratio etc. Before carrying out larger building and construction works and developing an area, a local development plan for this area must be adopted.

Dispensation from a local development plan can be granted by the municipality if the dispensation is not inconsistent with the overall principles in the plan. If so, a new local development plan must be adopted instead.

The land use can additionally be restricted by nature protection regulations in certain areas.


In the national Planning Act Denmark is divided into three zones:

  • urban zones;
  • summer house areas; and
  • rural zones.

Map showing urban zones (red) and summer house areas (yellow). The remaining areas are rural zones.

The purpose of this division is to pr event sparsely placed buildings and facilities in the open country and to secure urban development where this is intended and planned for.

Different possibilities for development are connected to the specific zoning.

In rural zones a permit is required to erect new buildings or change the use of existing buildings.

Summer house areas are laid out in a local plan and there are national restrictions regarding permanent habitation and the rights of foreigners to purchase summer houses in these areas.

In urban zones the landowner has a right to erect buildings etc. in accordance with a local development plan. However, the municipality can issue a prohibition notice to obstruct such development and must then within a year propose a new local development plan.

Change of zone classification from a rural zone to either an urban zone or a summer house area is regulated in the municipal plan and in the local development plans.

Building permissions are also required

In addition to the local development plan or the rural zone permission, a building permission must be issued before erecting buildings.

The authorities and the Danish appeal system

The municipality is the appropriate authority for issuing the municipality plan and local development plans. The plans are subject to public hearing before adoption. The timeframe for adoption of a new local plan is four to 12 months.

The municipality is also the appropriate authority to approve dispensations to development plans, rural zone permissions and building permissions.

The municipality's decision to grant or not to grant permissions and dispensations and the adoption of local development plans are in general subject to the right of appeal to a national complaints board (Planklagenævnet).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.