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Ontario's Greenbelt Is About Intelligent Planning

Archived Backgrounder

Ontario's Greenbelt Is About Intelligent Planning

Office of the Premier

The Golden Horseshoe is one of the fastest-growing regions in North America. By 2031, about four million more people - a number about equal to the combined populations of Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton - are expected to move to the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

This growth will add about two million more jobs and create new strength in our economy.

It will also create significant challenges to planned, thoughtful and well-managed growth in the Golden Horseshoe. That's why Ontario needs long-term strategies to keep our communities and our economy strong, and our environment healthy.

The greenbelt

The greenbelt's purpose is to protect environmentally sensitive and agricultural lands, a key step in planning for explosive population growth.

The greenbelt aims to:

  • Support agriculture

  • Ensure the environment remains healthy

  • Provide opportunities for growth to be considered in cities and towns outside the greenbelt, while supporting vibrant rural communities within the greenbelt

  • Provide outdoor recreational and other leisure opportunities to support the needs of our rapidly expanding population.

Places to Grow

Places to Grow is a growth plan that lays out our long-term vision for growth for the next 30 years in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. It builds on and is complementary to the greenbelt protection plan by proposing to direct growth to urban centres and identify a process for protecting viable greenspace, natural systems and agricultural areas beyond the greenbelt.

Preserving agricultural lands

The greenbelt prevents new urban development in specialty-crop areas such as the Holland Marsh and the Niagara peninsula tender fruit and grape lands. It also prohibits the use of prime agricultural areas for uses that do not support agriculture.

Prime agricultural areas retain flexibility for commercial and industrial uses that support agriculture, such as produce market stands, farm equipment stores or wineries.

Protecting our environment

The greenbelt prohibits new urban development on wetlands and forests in the greenbelt. Specifically, it aims to protect water resources from the impact of development, prevent contamination, preserve shorelines and strengthen the river valley connections between the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment, Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe.

Promoting healthy rural communities

To promote healthy rural communities, the greenbelt allows for modest expansions of towns and villages every 10 years, when the greenbelt plan is reviewed, but only where local water and sewer services can accommodate growth.

The greenbelt also allows for infrastructure development such as roads, subject to environmental criteria and Environmental Assessment Act requirements.

Recreation and tourism

The greenbelt supports a range of opportunities for tourism, sport and recreation. It encourages the establishment of a parkland, open space and trail strategy that will identify public and other accessible lands.



Environment and Energy