The Relationship between upper and lower tier municipalities in urban planning: the case of İstanbul metropolitan municipality and Büyükcekmece municipality

İçyüz, İlke
Spatial planning is one of the most important tools to reach national development targets. Besides, planning is also a key tool to improve the quality of life in cities as well as to achieve urban development targets. However, an effective urban planning system that shapes and guides actual urban development is missing in Turkey. This is mainly due to the structure of current urban planning system which results in clash of authorities and responsibilities among public agencies. The urban planning legislation authorizes several public agencies at both central and local levels to prepare and approve spatial plans at various scales. Such a multicentric structure in urban planning usually ends up with lack of coordination among authorized institutions and organizations. Since the mid-2000s, we have been observing the problems of insufficient coordination and clash of authorities especially in the case of upper and lower tier municipalities in metropolitan cities. In order to overcome the shortcomings of current urban planning system in Turkey, the experience on the relationship between upper and lower tier municipalities should be reevaluated thoroughly. As per the current urban planning system in Turkey, “master development plans” and “implementation development plans” are the basic urban plans that guide urban development pattern. The division of labor and authorities regarding preparation and approval of these plans was for long shared accordingly between upper and lower tier municipalities in metropolitan cities. However, with the enactment of the Municipal Acts (Laws No. 5393 and 5216) in 2004, substantial changes, mostly in favor of upper tier municipalities, were made to the division of authorities regarding conduct of master and implementation development plans. In other words, urban planning system in Turkey has been centralized with the introduction of new laws on municipalities in 2004. One significant result of the recent legislation change has been approval of urban plans that take almost no account of local geographical, socio-economic, and ecological conditions in plan decisions. Contrary to expectations, accumulation of planning authorities in the hands of upper tier municipalities, or in other words centralization of urban planning, did not result in a comprehensive planning approach but rather triggered partial planning implementations and exceptional development rights and arrangements. Moreover, lower tier municipalities have become local authorities which take actions on construction-related issues without a holistic urban development vision. In the light of this background, this study aims at examining the problems emerged out of the relations between Istanbul Metropolitan and Büyükçekmece Municipalities in conduct of urban development plans after 2004 and at developing policy recommendations to reorganize and redefine the share of planning authorities between municipalities in order to facilitate better institutional coordination.