New Provincial Plans Released
On May 18, 2017, the Province released new versions of its four provincial plans:
• Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2017)
• Greenbelt Plan (2017)
• Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (2017)
• Niagara Escarpment Plan (2017)
The new plans are the result of the Province’s Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review, which commenced in February, 2015. The new Niagara Escarpment Plan will come into effect on June 1, 2017, while the other three come into effect on July 1, 2017.
Common themes across the four new Plans include: greater emphasis on creating complete communities; strengthening protection and support for agricultural land and uses and natural heritage systems; requiring consideration of climate change in land use planning; and greater emphasis on conservation of cultural heritage resources.
The most significant changes are found in the new Growth Plan. While many of the guiding principles of the previous Growth Plan continue in this new Plan, significant changes have been introduced to the minimum intensification and density targets and planning for growth within Settlement Areas.
Despite concerns voiced by many of the Greater Golden Horseshoe (“GGH”) municipalities during the Co-ordinated Review, the increased intensification and density targets proposed in the draft version of the Plan released in May, 2016 have remained in this final version. However, phasing in of the targets has been added along with allowances for alternative targets and changes to the calculation of the density targets. Upper-tier municipalities will now be required to plan for a minimum of 60% of residential development to occur as intensification within their existing built-up areas by the year 2031 and onward (up from 40%), while densities in their vacant but designated areas are required to be planned for a minimum of 80 people and jobs combined per hectare across the upper-tier municipalities (increased from 50).
Other notable changes in the new Growth Plan include the establishment of hierarchies of Settlement Areas within upper-tier municipalities, as well as hierarchies of lands within Settlement Areas where growth is to be directed. Prohibitions on the development of “excess lands” which are within Settlement Areas but determined not to be needed to meet the growth and employment targets have been added for municipalities in the outer ring of the GGH.
The majority of the changes in the new Greenbelt Plan and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan focus on increasing permissions and protection for agricultural uses in these Plan areas. Policies for lot creation and expansion of settlement areas have also been tightened in these new Plans.
A new designation has been added to the Greenbelt Plan to recognize the Urban River Valley, which includes lands within the main corridors of river valleys connecting the rest of the Greenbelt to the Great Lakes and inland lakes. Associated policies have been included which apply only to publicly owned lands within the Urban River Valley designation.