In most European countries planning in rural areas has largely been restricted to protecting the countryside and agricultural land from built development. Rural planning has often been driven by programmes to foster food production, and there seems to be little willingness to change the traditional 'productivist' agricultural approach. Even in the face of rapidly changing demographic, social, environmental and economic realities, policy frameworks all over the world continue to emphasise agriculture as the key sector for rural regions, including the urban fringe. In this paper we outline the main features of the Norwegian planning system and the challenges facing it in rural areas. More specifically, we show how local authorities in six 'rurban' municipalities near two of Norway's largest cities view the problem - and what they have done adjust to it. In the Norwegian case studies we find a real willingness to change the traditional agricultural approach. We argue that the reason for this is the long tradition of relatively integrational relations between central and local levels. We find a shared platform of understanding between the two levels, and this platform seems to be based on the ideology of the new multifunctional approach.