Proposed Changes to the Provincial Policy Statement
OFT recently reviewed and provided several recommendations to strengthen the policies within the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s proposed changes to the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.
The Provincial Policy Statement provides policy direction on many topics in Ontario including land use planning and development. As this document sets the foundation for all development and land uses throughout the province of Ontario, OFT believes that it is very important to provide recommendations on the proposed changes to help strengthen farmland protection and policy in Ontario. One of the proposed changes that we support in the PPS was a wider adoption of the Agricultural System throughout the document. This could be beneficial for farmland protection if the right tools are provided to municipalities.
Some of the proposed changes that we are concerned about could:
- Allow municipalities to adjust settlement area boundary adjustments outside of municipal comprehensive reviews, including in prime agricultural areas.
- Remove the need for a buffer between agricultural operations and other, potentially conflicting, land uses.
- Allow for ground-mounted solar installations on farms as part of an on-farm diversified use.
Some of these changes could result in neighbouring land uses conflicting with farmland, which could lead to the sterilization of farmland and restrict farmers from running financially stable farm businesses. They could also result in the direct loss of farmland.
Based on the changes that will affect farmland, our feedback suggested:
- That settlement area boundary adjustments only be allowed as part of a municipal comprehensive review in prime agricultural areas, and that agricultural impact assessments are considered in this process as well.
- That the minimum distance separation formulae be reinstated to prevent surrounding land uses from conflicting with agricultural operations.
- That ground-mounted solar facilities should not be permitted on prime agricultural or specialty crop areas, and that if they are allowed strict limitations on area need to be implemented.
- And finally, that the official Agricultural System mapping be expanded across the province to mirror the wider adoption of the agricultural system within the updated PPS.
We believe that the review of the PPS is a great opportunity for the province to strengthen the policies that relate to farmland protection and agriculture.