Toronto, ON — Ontario’s award winning Greenbelt is under assault by some municipalities and developers that want to carve up the Greenbelt and remove thousands of hectares of sensitive farmland and natural areas from protection.
Research by Environmental Defence shows that 74 site specific requests to remove lands from the Greenbelt have been made to the Ontario government and more may be on the way. The majority of requests (51) came from York Region while the Niagara Escarpment Plan Commission reports 23 requests to remove land.
“The Greenbelt is supposed to provide permanent protection for farmland but that’s not stopping sprawl developers and municipalities from trying to gnaw away at it.  The 4,806 acres we know about are likely just a fraction of the removal requests made to the province,” says Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “There will be nothing worth protecting if developers and some of these regressive municipalities get their way and destroy the Greenbelt one piece of land at a time.”
The province is currently reviewing the Greenbelt Plan and the public has been clear that they want the Greenbelt to stay protected. Recent polling shows that 93 per cent of Ontarians support the Greenbelt and 75 per cent want to see it expanded.
Despite this overwhelming public support, this summer the scissors have come out at the municipal level. This week, the City of Hamilton is holding public meetings in rural areas to suggest removing specialty crop farmland and natural areas from the Greenbelt’s protection. Earlier this summer, the Niagara Region released a report asking the province to allow urban development on currently protected farmland, including tender fruit land. In May, York Region included developers’ requests to remove lands from the Greenbelt in the provincial review report the Region sent to the province.
Data from the Neptis Foundation, an urban think tank, shows that there is enough land available in our urban boundaries for decades of growth. Provincial data also shows that cities are growing at a lower rate than expected and using less land for housing so there is no need to allocate more farmland for growth. Some municipal leaders understand that protecting agriculture is the flip side of smart growth.
“There is already enough land allocated for future development,” says Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, co-chair of the Municipal Leaders for the Greenbelt. “If the province truly wants to protect the Greenbelt and build smarter communities it shouldn’t even contemplate opening up any urban boundaries. Our near urban farmland is too valuable to our economy. The province is undertaking a policy review, not holding a land auction.”
Related documents:
York Region Council Special Report (May 2015) includes 51 site specific requests to remove land from the Greenbelt
Niagara Escarpment Plan 2015 Review Report includes 23 site specific requests to remove land form the Greenbelt
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 to arrange interviews, please contact:
Naomi Carniol, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 258; (416) 570-2878 (cell); ncarniol@environmentaldefence.ca