The Planning Act
Created by the Government of Ontario in 1990, The Planning Act is a set of rules on how land use planning (such as approval of development sites) must be conducted in Ontario. This act is meant to integrate community input, environmental health, economic growth and development.
Please Note: this page is a summary/interpretation of the Act meant to give you a better understanding of your rights, however it does not act as a substitute for legal advise.
The purpose of the Act as stated therein is to:
- promote sustainable economic development in a healthy natural environment within a provincial policy framework
- provide for a land use planning system led by provincial policy
- integrate matters of provincial interest into provincial and municipal planning decisions by requiring that all decisions shall be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement when decision makers exercise planning authority or provide advice on planning matters
- provide for planning processes that are fair by making them open, accessible, timely and efficient
- encourage co-operation and coordination among various interests
- recognize the decision-making authority and accountability of municipal councils in planning.
Community input, environmental well-being and governmental accountability are all built into the act. This means that it is YOUR RIGHT to challenge development taking place in your community, especially if you believe that it threatens the health of the environment, wildlife and overall well-being.
Sections of The Planning Act
Click each tab to learn more and to be directed to the sections location on this page
Municipalities official plan
The Provincal Policy Statment
This Statement is issued under section 3 of The Planning Act, so all decisions related to the Act should be consistent with the Statement. In short, the Statement was made to influence the interpretation of The Planning Act of 1990 and to ensure that long term prosperity is taken into account even during short term decision making.
The purpose of the Statement as stated therein is to:
- encourage an increase in the mix and supply of housing
- protect the environment and public safety
- reduce barriers and costs for development and provide greater certainty
- support rural, northern and Indigenous communities
- support the economy and job creation
Relevance to Nature
The Provincial Policy Statement has a healthy environment as a main core component of the Statement.
"The long-term prosperity and social well-being of Ontario depends upon planning for strong, sustainable and resilient communities for people of all ages, a clean and healthy environment, and a strong and competitive economy."
"Strong, liveable and healthy communities promote and enhance human health and social well being, are economically and environmentally sound, and are resilient to climate change"
Increased commitment to Indigenous involvement and consultation in planning
Suppose to avoid areas that designated as natural heritage. No development is supposed to happen on Provincially Significant Wetlands of areas with significant habitat of endangered and threatened species (Including Species At Risk).
Conditional development policy on other types on natural lands with scientific interests or habitats (wetlands, woodlands, valley lands etc). In order to proceed with development need to prove it wont negatively affect their functions as is defined by the province (for example if it affects the environment negatively in a way that is outside the function of the area, then it does not count?)
In areas presently designated as agricultural areas the province cannot stop it from continuing.
There is a need to create advistory groups due to diminishing role of "Ministress such as MNR"
Under section 1.1 "Managing and Directing Land Use to Achieve Efficient and Resilient Development and Land Use Patterns" it is declared that developed and land use should be averted from locations that would threaten the health of the environment and that biodiversity, climate change should be mitigation should be taken into account whenever development takes place.
Within settlement areas land should be developed in such a way to "minimize negative impacts to air quality and climate change, and promote energy efficiency" and "prepare for the impacts of a changing climate". This means that development should not take place if it is inefficient and does no take into account the environmental significance of a location. For example maintaining wetland habitat is very important for flood mitigation and stormwater (precipitation) management.
In rural areas in municipalities the importance of the ecological benefits (ecosystem services) provided by nature are to be considered, biodiversitty should also be conserved and natural lands for tourism
Indigenous communities are to be engaged in planning
promotion of green infrastructure
1.6.6 Swage, water and storm water: should be sustainable managed to ensure long term use is possible, "promote water conservation and water use efficiency", all of the above should be climate resiliant, sweage should not be polluting environment, strom water management should minimize erosion
cultural heritage lanscapes are to be preserved
climate change mitigation and consideration of ecosystem services are seen as important to long term economic prosperity
Zoning bylaws are the the responsibility of municipalities and are usually passed by council through a series of meetings and consultations. These bylaws allow municipalities to allot certain areas of land for certain purposes. Any purpose not designated under the zoning bylaw is not allowed without re-zoning the area. For example, a residential zoned area is only for housing, a factory cannot be built there (without going through the re-zoning process).
Relevance to Nature
There are also zoning designations meant for ensuring that expanses of natural habitat stay intact and healthy. As is stated in the core purpose of the Act:
"promote sustainable economic development in a healthy natural environment within a provincial policy framework"
This means that all development should be conducted with environmental well-being in mind. If you encounter a development proposal for re-zoning that you think is jeopardizing the health of nature or land that is in appropriately zoned it is your right to speak at council zoning meeting or to ask for re-zoning to protect the environment.
Natural zoning designations
Land can also be designated as significant sensitive, vulnerable or of a natural feature "marshy lands". Such designation prevents anything from being built on this land for the health and safety of both ecosystems and residents. For example "Marshy lands" should not be built on because they provide significant natural flood prevention, water control and water treatment services to the public.
Sensitive lands are defined as areas with sensitive ground water reserves or sensitive surface water. This means that if you think that a zoning change negatively impacting the health of your lake or drinking water you have a right to challenge it. Also, if there is a body of water with evidence of sensitivity, you can gather data and support and then submit an request to re-zone the desired lake area.
Natural features and areas have significant wildlife habitat (what exactly is defined as significant may change between townships), such as forests, valleys or other habitat of scientific interest (for example it has unique ecosystems, species at risk, provides nesting habitat etc). These areas can also have significant amount of shorelines or be a natural corridor (an area of habitat that connects populations of a species dispersed due to human development)to obtain designation.
Many bylaws are specific to certain zones
Zoning dictates what is allowed/is applicable on/to a certain area of land. This also applies to other bylaws. Some bylaws are only relevant on natural lands, some on residential and others on industrial. Each municipality will have its own set of unique bylaws that apply to each zoning designation.
Changing zoning bylaws:
If you are considering challenging a re-zoning proposal or making one yourself make sure that you have detailed notes, pictures and other evidence of your claim of environmental significance. The more evidence the better, so also strongly consider forming a team and getting legal advice.
Zoning bylaws can be changed or amended to allow development to happen on land previously zoned as natural space or another land type.
- Requests for changing bylaws by public or business interests is submitted to the municipality. Consultation with the municipality can begin to occur before formal submitting of re-zoning request.
- Council has 90 days to review the re-zoning request. Council writes up requested by-law change re-zoning request, relevant parties will be notified and a public meeting will be called.
- At least one public meeting/open house must be held, with at least 20 days notice, where the municipality will outline the changes to the by-law and provide the public with all relevant information (this information should also be sent to interest groups). All attendees will have a chance to voice their concerns. All written and verbal submissions will be taken into consideration.
- Council makes its decision and sends notice, summary and explanation to applicant, meeting participants, anyone who submitted comments and interest groups no later than 15 days after approval or refusal.
- If the applicant or commenters disagrees with the decision or council takes more than 90 days to respond, an appeal can be made to the Ontario Land Tribunal by filing it with a municipal clerk. This appeal must outlining discrepancy the by-law has with the Planning Act (this includes harm to the environment), the official municipal plan, provincial interest or other concern within 20 days of council verdict.
- The Tribunal reviews the appeal, may invite appealing parties to present their case and then decides whether to dismiss the appeal, amend the by-law or repeal the by-law. Notice will of results will be given to applicant.
NOTE: By-laws do not come into affect until appeals are settled
The Lieutenant Governor in Council can confirm, change or rescind the tribunals decision, but this is extremely rare.
Plan of subdivision