Urban Sprawl in the Greater Golden Horsehoe and the 2015 Ontario Coordinated Land Use Planning Review: Analysis and Recomendations
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Historically, growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) region of Ontario, Canada, has been characterized by urban sprawl. The area is projected to undergo rapid population growth in the near future, which, if trends continue, will result in further sprawl. This is highly undesirable, as it will result in the conversion of agricultural and natural lands for low density development, a process which has significant social, environmental, and economic consequences. To address this issue, in 2005 the Ontario Government passed the Greenbelt Plan, a land use plan that aims to protect affected lands against development. However, the plan only covers a small portion of the GGH area, which leaves the majority of the region vulnerable to sprawl. However, there is currently an opportunity for this to change, as in 2015 4 provincial land use plans are being reviewed in tandem: The Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP), the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (ORMCP), and the Growth Plan for the GGH. This study seeks to explore the idea of ‘completing’ the planning for the GGH, or extending policies protecting against sprawl across the GGH region as a whole. The purpose of this study was to support to support policy development work being done by an environmental not-for-profit organisation, the ORM Partnership for 2015 (the Partnership), in the context of the 2015 Co-Ordinated Land Use Planning Review. This goal was accomplished through observing and attending a workshop between individuals knowledgeable on land use planning in Ontario which focussed on this concept. A literature review was done in order to identify themes, which were then used to analyse grey literature and workshop results. As a result of the workshop, the Partnership intends to propose to the minister via the mechanism of the review that the Greenbelt Plan’s protective policies on agriculture should be extended across the whole GGH, the Greenbelt’s Natural System should be extended across the whole GGH, and that a moratorium should be placed on urban boundaries for the next 10 years. This proposal would effectively resolve sprawl-related issues in the GGH, and would be feasible to implement. Several issues associated with the proposal and factors that could impact proposal success are also discussed with corresponding recommendations.