NATHAN TAYLOR
The province’s growth plan for Simcoe County could undermine its recently released protection plan for Lake Simcoe, warns Environmental Defence.
The environmental watchdog was generally pleased with the Lake Simcoe Protection plan, released earlier this week, but upset that the province “has opened up thousands of hectares of land for future development” in its growth plan.
“Concentrating population growth in the area’s largest centres makes good planning sense, particularly in Barrie, but opening up new areas for residential growth, and paving over prime agricultural lands to create new employment nodes in un-serviced areas is definitely a step backwards,” Claire Malcolmson, co-ordinator of Campaign Lake Simcoe for Environmental Defence, stated in a news release.
Orillia would have been a more reasonable spot for some industrial development, said David Donnelly, legal counsel to Environmental Defence.
There is approved vacant industrial land in this city “that is not prime agricultural” land, he noted.
“We’re very disappointed that the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan allows development of this nature,” Donnelly said. “You can’t have urban sprawl in the watershed of a highly sensitive lake.”
“It isn’t a question of how much growth; it’s a question of where,” he said.
The province maintains the plan will “help create jobs, curb urban sprawl and protect (Simcoe County’s) environment over the long term.”
Key priorities of the plan, according to a press release from the province, include “curbing urban sprawl by focusing new development into existing cities and towns that already contain a mix of uses and services and can accommodate growth through intensification,” and “building on Simcoe’s diverse economic base to create new jobs along the Highway 400 and Highway 11 corridors.”
The province is welcoming feedback from the public on its growth plan.