In June 2013, the federal government announced that planning would commence for airport and economic development activities on the Pickering Airport Lands Site, some 13,000 acres of Class 1-3 farmland in Durham Region. These lands were expropriated in the 1970s, but airport plans cancelled shortly afterward, leaving the future of the site uncertain. The land has since been rented to local farmers, but any investment in agricultural improvements prevented.
Over the years, OFT has advocated for a stronger commitment to preserving farmland on the Site. Within 100 km of 20% of Canada’s population, the Pickering Lands oﬀer an unprecedented opportunity to protect some of the most productive farmland in the GTA in a way that enables millions of people to connect with agriculture and local food. OFT has made the following recommendations to the federal government:
- Recognize the economic, ecological and food-producing importance of prime farmlands located on the Pickering Site;
- Commit to the permanent protection of all farmland that is surplus to airport uses;
- Ensure any development is restricted to airport and airport-related uses;
- Harmonize planning with provincial Greenbelt protections for farmland on the Site;
- Work closely with Parks Canada to coordinate planning for the protection of farmland adjacent to the Rouge National Urban Park;
- Clarify the process for planning and decision-making through regular public meetings;
- Work with stakeholders to develop new management structures for long-term stewardship of surplus agricultural lands.