In February 2015, Ontario embarked on a review of four land use plans, including the Greenbelt Plan and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). The 18-month review period included town hall meetings and open houses, an advisory panel report, and an updated vision for the future of our region. The feedback period drew to a close on Monday, October 31. The Province will now review the thousands of letters you've sent and announce final amendments in spring 2017. Here are our top five highlights of the 2015 Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review.
1. "Planning for Health, Prosperity and Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: 2015-2041"
An advisory panel chaired by former Mayor of Toronto David Crombie was appointed to develop recommendations on how to improve the land use plans. Highlights of the panel's report, released in December 2015, include a commitment to growing the Greenbelt, "by adding areas of critical hydrological significance, such as headwaters of major rivers, moraines, groundwater recharge areas, important surface water features and urban river valleys." The report also encourages the development of "complete communities," characterized by mixed-use development, a range of employment opportunities and transportation options, and high-quality public spaces. Read the executive summary and download the full report.
2. Greenbelt protection extended to 21 urban river valleys and 7 coastal wetlands
In May 2016, Ontario announced its proposed changes to the land use plans. We were excited to learn that the province supports the expansion of Greenbelt protection to 21 urban river valleys and seven coastal wetlands! The announcement represents the culmination of years of work by the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and our community partners in Toronto, Peel, Niagara, and Durham. Take a look at the map below, and this detailed breakdown of the proposed protected areas.
3. Grow Our Greenbelt builds momentum
The Grow Our Greenbelt initiative was launched in summer 2016 by a broad coalition of organizations representing more than 120 member groups and 300,000 members across Ontario. Prominent Canadians including Margaret Atwood and Maude Barlow have also endorsed the campaign, which calls for the creation of a "Bluebelt" that would provide drinking water and flood protection for millions of residents.
As of October 31, more than 8,560 people have emailed Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro in support of the Bluebelt.
Moreover, on October 19, more than 540 people with a combined social reach of over 2 million participated in a Thunderclap with the message #GrowOurGB to protect clean water supplies! Check out highlights of the Thunderclap and read our round-up of Grow Our Greenbelt in the media.
4. Collaboration between agricultural and environmental advocates
In November 2015, Environmental Defence and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) released a report entitled "Farmland at risk: Why land-use planning needs improvements for a healthy agricultural future in the Greater Golden Horseshoe." The report explores the prospects for protecting farmland inside and outside the Greenbelt, and encourages Ontarians to recognize farmland as a valued finite resource, not land waiting to be developed.
More recently, Township of King Councillor and Holland Marsh farmer Avia Eek spoke to the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation about the importance of protecting the clean water that farmers rely on to grow healthy, abundant crops.
5. Incredible participation by Greenbelt Friends
Last year, 3000 residents attended town hall meetings across the GGH, and over 19,000 people submitted written feedback to the Ontario government. Strong participation continued in 2016, with an outpouring of support for the Grow Our Greenbelt campaign and well-attended open houses over the summer. We could not have engaged with the 2015 Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review successfully without the continued support of residents across the Greenbelt and Greater Golden Horseshoe. Thank you!
We look forward to seeing the Ontario government's amendments to the four land use plans in spring 2017. In the meantime, we must continue to focus on protecting sensitive and vital water resources, particularly in areas of intense growth. Even though the feedback period has ended, you can still send a letter to Minister of Municipal Affairs Mauro to support the Province's protection and expansion of the Greenbelt. It's critical that we ensure Greenbelt boundaries are permanently protected from unbridled sprawl, and that the Growth Plan is working to help cities and growing municipalities develop responsibly.