This is a guest blog by Annette Gibbons, lead member of the Grimsby Environmental Network.

One of the main purposes of the Greenbelt Act is to permanently protect farmland and natural features from uncontrolled urban development.

With climate change and diminishing greenspace, we should be increasing the amount of Greenbelt land – not chipping away and removing it – like the owners of 502 Winston Road are asking the Town of Grimsby & Region of Niagara councils to do.

Image of Greenbelt Sign and Dice

Farmland is the foundation of our communities and our economy.

Local food and economic resiliency depend on the protection and stewardship of our agricultural land. Land sustains all life on earth but is under constant threat because of unsustainable land-use patterns.

In order for future generations to have access to fresh, local food, Ontario’s farmland must be protected.  Our farmland is a finite and non-renewable resource, so when we pave over farmland, we can never get it back.

Based on data from Statistics Canada in 2021, only 5 per cent of Canada’s land is arable. Only 0.5 per cent is Class 1 or 2 soils — the kind of soil you can grow anything on, and only a fraction of that is a Specialty Crop area — like this Grimsby parcel. This is GOOD soil located in a microclimate where tender fruits and grape vines can grow. It must be protected.

In the past 35 years, Ontario has lost 2.8 million acres of its scarce farmland to non-agricultural land uses.  Currently, Ontario is losing 319 acres of farmland every day and if unchecked, that number will increase much to our detriment.

The current owners of 502 Winston Road in Grimsby are asking for concurrent amendments in both the Town of Grimsby and the Niagara Region Official Plans to allow the Greenbelt land designations to be changed.  The owners have publicly stated their end goal is to put 1,400 townhouses and multi-dwelling units on this lakefront Greenbelt parcel.

502 Winston Road is located within the Greenbelt and is designated as a Specialty Crop Area – Tender Fruit and Grape Lands, that is the highest protection under the Greenbelt Plan. It is no place for development.

Six Nations of the Grand River has commented that this proposal, “Tries to subvert a scarce social and environmental good.  It threatens vital greenspace, a watercourse, and animal habitat.”  We agree with that comment.

These applications if approved, would also open up a floodgate of similar site-specific exemption requests on other protected properties and would chip away piece-by-piece Ontario’s precious Greenbelt.

The Town of Grimsby already has enough land identified through the recent 4-year Municipal Comprehensive Review to meet the Town’s growth obligations through to 2051.  These lands are NOT needed for housing.

And, the applicant has not demonstrated the need for downgrading the protection for this property from Specialty Crop to Rural, other than to pursue their development goals.

Shifting the property to a lower priority designation represents bad planning policy as evidenced by the language in the Regional Official Plan.  Regional Official Plan Policy 5.B.5 states that “Redesignation of Unique Agricultural Areas are prohibited.”

Phil Pothen from Environmental Defence provided comments at the Statutory Public meeting on the regional proposal and has strongly advised the Region not to approve the application, warning it could be the undoing of the Greenbelt Act and protection of our farmland and our food security.

Besides, the Greenbelt review is scheduled to start next year and, in that, there is a proper process already in place to review any possible adjustments and changes in Greenbelt lands.

This is NOT the time to make ANY changes whatsoever to the land designation.

In fact, this precious gem of land on the shores of Lake Ontario should be protected in perpetuity, to benefit all Ontarians.

Please send your comments and concerns on this topic to Mike Marcolongo of Environmental Defence at and Annette Gibbons of Grimsby Environmental Network at