Urban planning advocate talks Ontario government reversing changes to Peterborough Official Plan

Aerial view of downtown Peterborough.
Province reverses changes made to Peterborough Official Plan. Photo from peterborough.ca.
Edward Sweeney - CFFF - PeterboroughON | 01-11-2023
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On Monday (Oct. 23), Paul Calandra, Ontario’s minister of municipal affairs and housing, made an announcement to reverse changes they made to several Ontario communities’ Official Plans in April of this year.

A city’s Official Plan is a long-term city planning document. Peterborough is currently drafting a rewrite of their new Official Plan, which will be in effect until 2051.

In late 2021, Peterborough submitted a draft of their new Official Plan to the provincial government. In April 2023, the Official Plan was approved with 61 non-negotiable changes, effective immediately. Notably, these changes removed Peterborough’s proposed new-building height limit downtown, and restrictions placed on new development in rural areas outside of Peterborough.

Then, in an announcement on Monday, October 23, the Ontario Government announced their decision to reverse the changes made in April to Official Plans across the province.

Calandra stated that the changes were made in an effort to help build at least 1.5 million homes, but they “failed to meet the test of maintaining and reinforcing public trust.”

Trent Radio spoke with Ian Attridge, an environmental lawyer who advocates for good urban planning, to understand this week’s announcements and the importance of Official Plans. Attridge has been following city planning in Peterborough for 30 years.

“Some of the [changes] look minor, but have bigger implications,” says Attridge on the province removing protections of environment and cultural heritage in the Official Plan.

Attridge says that the 61 changes to Peterborough’s Official Plan are “eroding the city’s authority” to implement the changes that Peterborough residents want.

Now that the changes have been reversed, the City of Peterborough has a short period to rework their proposed Official Plan. Attridge hopes that this window of time allows the City of Peterborough to integrate the community in the planning process. He says that many things have changed since the Official Plan was drafted and this is a chance to update the Official Plan for what is currently needed.

Attridge is happy that the provincial changes regarding development in rural areas are being reversed: He mentioned that the City of Peterborough was trying to restrict new residential and industrial building in underdeveloped areas, and the 61 changes introduced by the provincial government would then allow those new builds. He is concerned that new building, far from the city center, ends up being much more expensive than improving existing areas and making things more densely populated.

Listen to Attridge break down the implications of Calandra’s Oct. 23 announcement.