The Niagara Official Plan is a set of policies that define how Niagara will use its available land to shape the physical, economic and social development of the region over the next 30 years.
Having a new Official Plan in place will allow us to:
Niagara's existing Official Plan was created in the 1970s. It's been updated several times since then, but the time has come to create a brand new plan that reflects where our community is today, and where it will be in 30 years.
The plan includes land-use policies that cover topics like Niagara's natural environment, land needs, growth allocations, housing, transportation, urban design, employment lands and agriculture. These variables are all interconnected, and must be considered holistically to plan for communities that are sustainable, resilient, vibrant and thriving.
Niagara Region is currently drafting the policies that will be included in the plan, a consolidated draft Official Plan is expected to be complete by the end of 2021 for review.
Having a diverse range of attainable housing options is essential to grow Niagara's economy - the Niagara Official Plan will ensure that Niagara has the right mix to manage our future growth sensibly, while protecting what makes Niagara unique.
Housing prices have climbed dramatically in recent years, and Niagara needs a plan that promotes the range and forms of housing to try to address this issue.
More housing - particularly more multi-unit forms of housing - is needed to keep housing prices more affordable, which is essential to supporting the economy. Secondary plans (community plans) and urban design are essential tools in strategically locating intensification in a way that best fits the community.
The Official Plan will have policies for more compact, efficient forms of development, including through better intensification policies.
According to provincial growth forecasts, Niagara will gain more than 214,000 new residents by 2051. The Province requires us to plan for this growth; we can decide how and where it’s going to occur, and not occur, through the Official Plan.
The Niagara Official Plan will allow us to direct this growth to where it makes sense, mainly in Niagara’s existing urban areas, preventing sprawl.
For example, downtown St. Catharines is an urban growth centre, which is an area for focused growth, and to keep it away from less developed areas.
Housing density is a measure of how many people and jobs can be accommodated in a given area. Intensification is how many new dwelling units can be added to an already built-up area.
The Niagara Official Plan will set density and intensification targets for different areas of Niagara. The Province sets out the baseline rules that we must implement in a way that makes sense for our region.
Housing density is relative. What is considered medium or high-density in Niagara is not the same as in other, more urban communities.
Through good design, we can have communities that incorporate more dense forms of housing while still keeping what makes Niagara unique.
The climate change section of the Niagara Official Plan will have policy that supports other sections of the Official Plan to address changing climate. The plan will also include policies that support the development of a Regional Greening Initiative, already underway.
Climate change policies are also integrated throughout Provincial plans, like the Greenbelt Plan, the Growth Plan, and others, demonstrating the interconnectedness of policies to address climate change.
The Natural Environment System is just one way that Niagara Region can take action to address climate change. It's important that the system protects important features and maintains biodiversity.
The Official Plan will also align policy and language with the work of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, ensuring Niagara is taking a clear, streamlined, cooperative approach to conserving our natural features.
Regional staff have created draft maps and tables to show the impact of proposed policy options on key urban areas in Niagara.
Niagara's current Official Plan is outdated compared to neighbouring communities, particularly around employment lands, and lacks clearly defined employment areas and mapping. This makes Niagara less competitive than other communities.
Clearly defining and mapping Niagara's employment areas will help direct investment to those areas, attracting and retaining jobs, and growing Niagara's economy.
The Official Plan contributes to the priorities laid out for Niagara in Provincial plans like the:
The plan will also provide data and guidance critical to the Region's Transportation Master Plan, Water and Wastewater Master Servicing Plan, and Development Charges By-law.
Learn about the Niagara Offical Plan Consolidated Policy Report which provides information and draft policies for the Niagara Official Plan.
Learn about the options for the natural heritage system and water resource system to be considered as part of the Official Plan.
Tell us what you think the new Niagara Official Plan should focus on.
How we manage growth and development, with a range and mix of housing types, including affordable housing. Watch the Growing Region video.
How we improve connections with transit, recreation, trails, infrastructure and technology. Watch the Connected Region video.
How we increase our competitiveness by supporting employment opportunities and protecting agricultural lands. Watch the Competitive Region video.
How we enhance the vibrancy of communities by supporting strong urban design and protecting cultural heritage. Watch the Vibrant Region video.
How we protect our natural environment and plan for climate change. Watch the Sustainable Region video.
In 2013, we initiated an integrated process under the umbrella Niagara 2041 to undertake a Municipal Comprehensive Review (How We Grow), Transportation Master Plan (How We Go) and Water and Wastewater Master Servicing Study (How We Flow).
The work that began under How We Grow has transitioned to the process of developing the new Niagara Official Plan
In addition to these master plans, a number of background studies will help to inform the development of the new Niagara Official Plan:
The new plan will be informed by background studies, and consultation with partners, stakeholders and the public in key project phases:
The target completion date for the new Niagara Official Plan is December 2021. Once endorsed by Regional Council, the new plan will be forwarded to the provincial government for approval.