Greenbelt, Growth Plan Policy Recommendations Now Available

The Ontario Farmland Trust (OFT) recommendations to government on the Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review are now available. The provincial policy review process has been ongoing since February 2015, and includes: (1) the Greenbelt Plan, (2) the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, (3) the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, and (4) the Niagara Escarpment Plan.  Over the past few months the Province has invited Ontarians to provide feedback and comments on changes it is  proposing to the four plans. OFT has prepared a  submission to government identifying plan amendments that should be celebrated, as well areas where the plans can be further improved to advance the permanent, lasting protection of Ontario’s farmland resources.

The OFT’s submission was pulled together from reviewing the proposed changes to the four land use plans with our Policy Committee, communicating with partner farm and land conservation organizations, and gathering stakeholder input  at events like our annual Ontario Farmland Forum. Click here to read our full submission.

The Province has made many great updates to the provincial plans that OFT commends and would like to see carried into their final versions. Here are a few highlights of positive policy changes:

The Adoption of the ‘Agricultural System’ and ‘Agricultural Support Network’ Language

This language allows for a more positive, holistic, and coordinated approach to protecting and sustaining agriculture in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). This language can be found within the Growth Plan, Greenbelt Plan, and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, and must be added to the Niagara Escarpment Plan.

–  The Provincial Commitment to Identify, Map & Protect the Agricultural System

This commitment is a top priority for OFT. This process will enhance the protection of agricultural areas and curtail on-going loss of farmland. OFT recommends that this project moves forward immediately and is finalized by spring 2017.

Require Agricultural Impact Assessments

OFT commends the introduction of Agricultural Impact Assessments as they can assess and mitigate the impact of non-agricultural development on adjacent farming operations. These efforts contribute to a viable agricultural sector in the GGH. The OFT encourages the Province to develop guidance material to support the implementation of this tool.

OFT has also highlighted policy gaps where these plans need further improvements to successfully protect farmland within the GGH. Here are some highlights of OFT’s recommendations for policy improvement:

Freeze Settlement Area Expansion & Establish Firm Urban Boundaries

OFT strongly advises that the Province freeze urban expansion and introduce permanent boundaries in all communities within the GGH. This action is critical to successfully curbing urban sprawl, achieving effective growth management, and protecting farmland and farming communities within the region.

Introduce a Standard Method for Assessing Land Requirements

The Province must introduce a standardized ‘Lands Needs Assessment’ process to dictate how municipalities calculate the amount of land needed to accommodate future growth. These efforts will help to eliminate inconsistencies   in planning among municipalities and avoid the excessive conversion of farmland to urban uses that we see today.

Prohibiting Exemptions to Growth Plan Density & Intensification Requirements

OFT recommends that the Province does not allow municipalities to grow using development patterns that are lower than the intensification and greenfield density rates outlined in the Growth Plan.

More recommendations and details on specific policy changes can be found in our full submission here.

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