Provincial Policy Statement: Greener, Diverse, Better Connected

May 15, 2014

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— Part 2 of our series on The Big Review —

The Province’s four-year review of the Provincial Policy Statement has recently come to a close. Feedback received through the review identified a need to better integrate economic, social and environmental considerations, respond to rural and northern community challenges, and provide direction for emerging issues such as climate change, aging communities and declining populations. The majority of the changes incorporated do not fundamentally alter the core content nor the mission of the PPS rather, revisions attempt to provide greater detail and clarity in policies to support the implementation of the Statement itself.

The revised Provincial Policy Statement was released in February 2014 and came into effect on April 30, 2014. All land use decisions made following this implementation date must conform to the revised plan regardless of an application’s submission date. This blog summarizes, at a high level, some of the key themes that can be identified in the revisions to the PPS.

Sustainable Transportation

The new PPS has provides more explicit language regarding the promotion and coordination between communities in the areas of active transportation, transit and transit-supportive development. Provincial parks, conservation reserves and other protected green areas are recognized as key pieces of infrastructure in active, healthy, communities. This calling out and recognition of active transportation systems can be seen as the first step in establishing more comprehensive pedestrian and cyclist oriented policy at larger, regional, scales. The policies also encourage the establishment of coordinated transit systems at the regional scale.

A Greater Focus on Northern and Rural Communities

Much of the revised PPS has focused on better protecting and recognizing the distinct circumstances of northern and rural communities. The new PPS has attempted to better recognize the situation and needs of rural and northern communities that have place-specific economic and demographic circumstances, in particular recognizing the challenge of population decline. New policies support the diversification of rural settlement area’s economic base, promote the regeneration of rural brownfield sites, and permit economic activities in prime agricultural areas.

With regard to rural areas, the new PPS has altered the definition of rural areas and provided a new policy and definition relating to rural lands. The definition of rural areas has been expanded to include rural lands, natural heritage, rural settlement areas, prime agricultural areas, and resource areas. What was previously referred to as rural areas in the PPS is now referred to as rural lands. The economic vitality and diversification of these lands is promoted through the encouragement of sustainable and diversified tourism and economic activities on agricultural land.

Protection

Possibly in response to the tremendous growth experienced in southern Ontario since the implementation of the 2005 PPS, many of the new PPS’s revised policies share a common theme of protection. In relation to Employment Lands, the 2014 PPS further encourages the mix of compatible employment uses and explicitly requires the protection of employment lands close to major goods transport facilities. Transport corridors are further protected through the required planning of freight-supportive and compatible land uses.

As a means of financially sustaining and ultimately protecting settlement areas over the long term, planning authorities are now required to implement phasing policies to ensure development within growth areas occurs in tandem with the provision of infrastructure and public service facilities needed to support this growth.

In regards to more rural areas, green spaces and watercourses are further protected by eliminating any development from occurring in areas with endangered and threatened species.

Implementation

Potentially one of the most significant changes is the PPS’s new relationship to municipal zoning and development permitting systems. In addition to requiring municipalities to keep their official plans up-to-date with the PPS, municipalities are now required to keep their zoning and development permit by-laws up-to-date with their official plans and the PPS. This new policy presents an interesting situation for many Ontario municipalities, the situation of Toronto immediately comes to mind, as much of the City’s zoning is significantly out of date and is far from realizing the goals of compact, mixed-use, and transit supportive developments as identified in the PPS.

Recognition of Aboriginal Interests and Human Rights

The previous PPS strictly focused on the “use” of lands, while this updated PPS makes a greater attempt recognize the broader social justice issues relating to land development. Specifically, the 2014 PPS includes a new policy requiring planning authorities to consider the interests of Aboriginal communities in conserving cultural heritage and archaeological resources and requires all land use decision to recognize and affirm existing Aboriginal and treaty rights as identified in the Constitution Act.

In addition to its recognition of aboriginal land interests, the interpretation and implementation of the revised PPS is now required to remain “consistent with” the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Conclusion

The revised PPS includes many new policies that further protect and recognize the diversity of Ontario’s vast geography and communities. Many of these revisions have both very local and regional implications – we look forward to watching how they are incorporated into future municipal and provincial policy reviews.

Resources:

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAH) has released a ‘highlights’ document of new policies that provides a useful comparison between the 2005 PPS and the 2014 PPS.

The Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI) has released a tracked changes version of the new PPS.

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About The Big Review 

We are almost 10 years into the legacy set of provincial legislation and Plans that have changed the planning and development landscape in the Greater Golden Horseshoe in Ontario. The time has come for policy makers to reflect on the effectiveness of those cornerstone planning documents, and a major review period is now underway – priorities identified in the Big Move have recently been revisited, and the Growth Plan and Greenbelt Plan will soon be under provincial review.

Urban Strategies has a thorough understanding of these Plans and policies, because we have played a role in their development or implementation from all perspectives and at all levels – from provincial, regional and local municipalities to private and institutional development.

On this basis, we offer our insight on the Plans, their review processes, and how their evolutions can help us better manage community growth and sustainability.

Over the coming months, we will post to this Blog our thoughts on how the Plans are working, proposed revisions, and updates on review processes and outcomes.  We invite you to join us in this E-exchange of ideas, with on-the-ground experiences and your thoughts on moving forward