Toronto, ON — Today Ontario announced the launch of its review of the Greenbelt and the Places to Grow plans. There is evidence these plans need strengthening as sprawl continues marching towards the Greenbelt, devouring prime farmland. Land in the Greenbelt is also under threat.
“In the last decade, developers have bulldozed an area of farmland larger than twice the size of the City of Ajax. That’s at least 20 per cent of the farmland between Lake Ontario and the Greenbelt,” says Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “Some municipalities are blatantly disregarding the provincial Growth Plan and continuing to sprawl.” 
“By successfully limiting urban sprawl and directing growth to urban areas, the Greenbelt has protected Ontarians’ access to local food, drinking water and natural areas. But the plans need strengthening,” Gray says. “It shouldn’t be possible to shrink the Greenbelt, or put a mega-highway on Greenbelt land.”
Ontario’s Places to Grow Plan and Greenbelt Plan are designed to work together to stop sprawl by aligning future growth with infrastructure to reduce traffic congestion and costs and to support sustainable development. But some municipalities and developers aren’t implementing growth plan targets, which keep sprawl developments from paving over farmland and nature. 
Every 10 years, the province reviews these plans to see if people and nature are thriving in the Greater Golden Horseshoe or if improvements are needed. And it’s clear improvements are needed.
Within the Greenbelt, natural areas and farmland are at risk. Threats include more sprawl development, as well as proposals for unnecessary infrastructure, such as the proposed GTA West mega-highway that would pave over farms and forests, contribute to poorer air quality, and generate more greenhouse gases.
Stronger policies can protect our forests, drinking water sources and farmland while encouraging the growth of healthier communities.
“We need stronger policies that align the region’s growth with transit hubs to create urban centres where people actually want to live in. By directing growth to urban areas, we can create vibrant, walkable, transit-friendly communities,” Gray says. “We need to strengthen the Places to Grow and Greenbelt to create this future.”
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
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For more information, or media requests, please contact:
Naomi Carniol, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext 258, 416-570-2878 (cell); ncarniol@environmentaldefence.ca