The concept of regional planning was first mentioned in Regional Planning Law No. 26 of 2010, as integrated planning that regulates policies related to housing, location, time and environment, with the aim of achieving sustainable, balanced development on both the regional and national levels.
Regional planning is a middle ground between national planning for general state policy and urban planning geared towards urban communities. This link ensures that the spatial dimension is considered in certain projects to encourage balanced development between different regions of Syria. Regional planning searches for the ideal usage–both spatially and socially–of economic and development projects while also working to protect agricultural lands, water sources, natural reserves and archaeological and tourism areas. Regional planning directives are considered mandatory in all urban development projects.
Law No. 26 of 2010 created the Higher Regional Planning Council (HRPC) to adopt the general objectives and principles of regional planning, approve the draft national framework for regional planning and approve regional plans. The HRPC is headed by the Prime Minister and includes eight other ministers as well as the head of the State Planning Commission, the Director of the Central Bureau of Statistics and the head of the Regional Planning Commission (RPC). Any zoning plans and projects impacting the regional level within both the public and private sectors must comply with the principles and directives of the Higher Regional Planning Council.
Regional Planning Commission
Law No. 26 also created the Regional Planning Commission (RPC), which is a legal entity with administrative and financial independence. This body is linked to the Prime Minister and is headquartered in the Dummar neighbourhood of Damascus – the building hosting it was used in the late 19th century as the summer palace of Prince AbdulQader Al-Jazairi.
The RPC is meant to regulate the process of regional spatial planning and development to help reduce social and economic disparities between various regions of Syria and preserve natural and human resources. The RPC sets the foundations and standards for regional planning, runs a regional planning database, follows implementation of plans and submits a periodic report to the HRPC. The RPC has an advisory council, and its membership and tasks are determined by procedural rules.
Parallel to the work of the RPC, regional committees were formed in each governorate to study zoning plans at the governorate level. Each of these committees was headed by the governor, with the membership of the directors of technical and legal services, the head of the governorate council, the deputy head of the governorate executive office, the head of the local administrative unit and a representative from the Ministry of Public Works and Housing.
Since its formation, the RPC has paid special attention to informal housing. In 2011, it launched a training workshop on the national mapping project for informal housing, which it completed in 2013. The project determined the quality and level of intervention required in informal housing communities. Then in 2017, the authority prepared a study to address informal housing areas according to the national informal housing map. It began work the following year to establish real estate development zones based on proposals of the administrative authorities. In 2019, it announced it was updating and developing the national framework for regional planning. Finally, in 2020, the RPC announced it had completed a guide to preparing spatial planning studies in Syria.
Decree No. 54 of 2015 established the Higher Institute of Regional Planning at the University of Damascus, with the aim of preparing, rehabilitating and training university degree holders in the field of regional planning. The institute carries out research related to regional planning and coordinates with relevant institutions, providing advice and proposals. The institute also established an information centre and a library and publishes periodicals.