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Growth Plan Loopholes Allow Sprawl in Rural Communities

Oak Ridges Moraine © Bill Lishman

Ontario, March 9, 2017 – A new Neptis Foundation report raises the alarm that major loopholes in the Government of Ontario’s proposed Growth Plan would make rural communities a focus of growth, wreaking havoc on the water, nature and communities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). These changes would allow decades-old style of sprawl in over 400 rural towns, villages and hamlets – including many within the protected Greenbelt. Around 31,200 hectares of farmland, natural habitat and rural areas (equivalent in collective size to Mississauga) would come under threat from low-density, car-dependent development.

“This goes against the spirit and intent of the Province’s Growth Plan and its promotion of complete communities,” says Joyce Chau, Executive Director of EcoSpark. “These rural settlement areas were specifically excluded by the Province from the built boundary where growth should not occur because of a lack of servicing.”

The proposed Growth Plan creates a loophole where sprawling greenfield developments could be manipulated to count as intensification. The intent of the Growth Plan is to direct major growth to areas with existing roads, sewers and other major infrastructure in the GGH.

The more than 400 rural towns, villages and hamlets at risk are peppered across the Oak Ridges Moraine, Greenbelt and throughout the GGH. “The proposed Growth Plan, if not amended before its final release, will permanently transform the character of our rural countryside,” says Debbe Crandall, Policy Advisor for STORM. “This underlying development pressure threatens areas with vulnerable water sources and where we’ve asked the Province to grow the Greenbelt.”

Simcoe County has the largest portion of rural settlement areas under threat. The Neptis Foundation identified that 65% of the draft approved intensification in Simcoe Country are in greenfield areas with 83% for single-family detached housing. “These loopholes open the door to costly and unsustainable communities in need of major infrastructure services,” says Joshua Wise, Greenway Program Manager for Ontario Nature. “Pipes and roads will fragment important natural areas and pave over prime farmland.”

“The Province has chance now to close these loopholes,” says Margaret Prophet, Co-chair of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. “It’s an opportunity to invest in creating complete communities that are cost-effective and better for our environment, farmland and families.”

The proposed Growth Plan permits an archaic formula for growth where few developers profit at the expense of our water, nature and communities in the GGH. EcoSpark, STORM, Ontario Nature and Earthroots are leading voices for natural areas protection in the GGH and growing the Greenbelt. The partnership wants the Province to close this loophole before finalizing the Growth Plan.

Read the full Neptis Foundation report.


For media inquiries and to arrange expert interviews, please contact:
John Hassell, Ontario Nature, 416-786-2171

EcoSpark is an environmental charity whose mission is to empower communities to take an active role in protecting and sustaining their local environment. We do this by giving people the tools for education, monitoring and influencing positive change. We have directly worked with over 64,000 people in over 20 watersheds across Southern Ontario. For more information, visit www.ecospark.ca.

Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 150 member groups across Ontario. For more information, visit www.ontarionature.org.

Save the Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition (STORM) is focused on protecting the ecological integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Since 1989, STORM has been working at the local and regional levels to ensure that municipalities make good planning decisions to protect its ecological and hydrological functions. For more information, visit www.stormcoalition.org.

Earthroots is a grassroots conservation organization that works aggressively to protect wilderness, wildlife and watersheds in Ontario through research, education and action. We achieved effective protection of threatened ecosystems for over 20 years on behalf of our approximately 12,000 supporters in the province. For more information, visit www.earthroots.org.

The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition (SCGC) consists of over 30 community groups from across Simcoe and the province that have agreed in principle that the Greenbelt needs to expand into Simcoe County to ensure our water, natural heritage and farmland is protected. With representation from farmers, naturalists, environmentalists and ratepayer organizations, the SCGC is a balanced voice that believes that the Greenbelt would create a stronger Simcoe County. For more information, visit www.simcoecountygreenbelt.ca.