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The field of spatial planning consists of the development, design and organization of living, working and environmental conditions at different spatial levels: from individual buildings or urban districts to the city as a whole, the region, national and even international level. The profession of spatial planner combines technical knowledge in engineering, architecture and geography with social science approaches to problems and the ability to find creative solutions. This requires an interest in politics, economics, environment, ecology and law and the ability to quickly familiarize oneself with new topics.

The central task of spatial planning is to develop a coherent territorial organisation that tries to balance economic development needs with the need to protect natural resources and achieve social goals in a balanced manner. In order to do this, it must respond to the constantly changing demands of society.

This means that it must mediate between the different claims on space by government, businesses and communities in a transparent and flexible way to find environmentally, socially and economically compatible solutions. It must also respond to the changing climate and the resulting increase in the probability of certain (natural) disasters.

To this end, it should also ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to protect human life and property against the consequences of disasters. In addition, it must try to reduce risk through influencing the exposure of people and structures to climate related hazards by means of land use, transport networks and the availability of services and open spaces.

The different levels of spatial planning are interconnected with each other. The National, State and Local plans must be aligned with each other (see the example in the CHARIM use case book). In addition the local level can provide the basis for more detailed structural or land use zoning that has a legally binding effect.

This involves a complex set of issues ranging from the definition and implementation of policies to the coordination and integration of different interests, sectors and government interventions. For example the spatial plan in Scotland combines economic, social and environmental considerations in service of the SNP’s stated goals of balanced prosperity and sustainable development. The National Planning Framework for England, by contrast, does not contain such progressive themes.

The effectiveness of spatial planning depends on the quality of the information used to make decisions. For example, reliable hazard and risk data is crucial. It must be available and accessible to all stakeholders. This is why the involvement of all interested parties, both within and outside the spatial planning sector is important. This includes the collection of data, the development of a platform for sharing of critical information and institutional mechanisms for mutual collaboration. The CHARIM project aims to facilitate this by developing a variety of tools that support the making of spatial planning decisions, such as methodologies for problem analysis and framing, software tools for generating hazard maps and risk assessment and a range of other support tools (see the Methodology Chapter 6). This makes it possible to combine various sets of hazard related information to make appropriate planning decisions.