For four decades, Albania was ruled by a repressive dictator and was one of the most isolated countries in the world. It was only in 1991 that Albania began the transition from communism to a free-market economy and democracy. This transition has affected all segments of Albanian life, including territorial planning and urban development. Under communism, planning was a centralized function. The approach was highly standardized and poor in terms of quality and use of space. With the fall of communism, the country experienced a period of unbridled growth and development. Unfortunately, much of the development that occurred over the past 20 years has been unmanaged and unplanned, which has negatively affected the environmental, economic, and social development of the country.
As the country seeks to regain control over the planning process in order to effectively manage urban development, build sustainable communities, and boost the economic potential of the country at both the national and local levels, a heightened focus has been placed on the territorial planning process. To support this process, USAID launched the Planning and Local Governance Project (PLGP) in Albania, implemented by Tetra Tech. The objective of PLGP is to support the Government of Albania and local governments to better plan and manage urban and regional growth and development. More broadly, this 5-year project works at both the national level and local level to promote acceptance of the principles of decentralized governance, and to disseminate and institutionalize practical and effective methods for municipal management
In 2009, a new Territorial Planning Law for Albania was adopted, which introduced, for the first time in the Albanian planning process, principles and procedures of international best practices in spatial planning and land management. The Law established the National Territorial Planning Agency (NTPA) as the primary institution responsible for territorial planning at the central level, and includes a requirement for local governments units (LGUs) to prepare their territorial plans within 2 years from the date of its enactment. The implementation of the Law has been weak to date due to the limited capacity of LGUs and other public institutions to cope with the complex territorial planning and development issues stipulated in the new legal provisions. Through PLGP, Tetra Tech is helping to build the institutional capacity of the newfound NTPA and local governments to implement the requirements of the new Territorial Planning Law, and to enable them to better plan and manage growth and development in their communities and in the country.
Over the past year, PLGP working together with the NTPA “coached” 11 municipalities through the process of adapting their territorial plans to be compliant with the requirements of the new Territorial Planning Law. In November 2012, 10 municipalities (Berat, Shkodër, Korçë, Fushë-Krujë, Kamzë, Fier, Vlorë, Gjirokastër, Durrës, and Pogradec), submitted their General Territorial Plans, and were presented for approval to the National Territorial Council. Four of the plans have been approved to date, with additional approvals expected in the coming weeks.
The progress being made in the territorial planning process in Albania will allow regulated land development to take place and give a new breath to the overall economic development of the country. The protection of Albania’s natural resources, particularly unspoiled coastal lands, will also be ensured. The prominence this topic is receiving is reflected in the remarks delivered by Prime Minister Sali Berisha and U.S. Ambassador Alexander Arvizu at the National Meeting on Territorial Planning where both spoke of the importance of sound urban planning for contributing to the economic and development goals of the country.
During the remaining 4 years of PLGP, Tetra Tech will continue to support Albania’s municipalities and communes, as well as the NTPA in the full implementation of the new Territorial Planning Law. PLGP’s technical assistance will focus on the initiation of work in drafting the General National Territorial Plan. These activities will create the framework and provide best practices for the preparation and approval of planning instruments by local governments.