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Comprehensive Review - Provincial Policy Statement, 2005

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Provincial Policy Statement, 2005

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 (PPS, 2005) provides policy direction on matters relating to land use planning that are of provincial interest. It is issued under the authority of Section 3 of the Planning Act and applies to all applications, matters or proceedings commenced on or after March 1, 2005.

SprawlThe PPS, 2005 plays a key role in Ontario’s planning system by providing the policy foundation necessary to regulate the development and use of land. It is the basis of the province’s policy-led planning system and supports the provincial goal of strong, livable and healthy communities.

This InfoSheet was developed to assist participants in the land use planning process understand the comprehensive review policies of the PPS, 2005.

Comprehensive reviews help planning authorities make land use planning decisions on issues that typically require a broader context or framework and consideration of potential impacts from interrelated activities and factors.

The PPS, 2005 requires that a comprehensive review be undertaken to permit:

  • the identification of settlement areas and the expansion of settlement area boundaries
  • the conversion of lands within employment areas to non-employment uses
  • development that is not related to the management or use of resources, or is not a resource based recreational activity within rural areas in unincorporated areas that are adjacent to or surrounding municipalities.

A comprehensive review, as it relates to the identification of settlement areas, the expansion of settlement area boundaries (policy 1.1.3.9) and the conversion of lands within employment areas to non-employment uses (policy 1.3.2), means:

an official plan review which is initiated by a planning authority, or an official plan amendment which is initiated or adopted by a planning authority, which:

  1. is based on a review of population and growth projections and which reflect projections and allocations by upper-tier municipalities and provincial plans, where applicable; considers alternative directions for growth; and determines how best to accommodate this growth while protecting provincial interests;
  2. utilizes opportunities to accommodate projected growth through intensification and redevelopment;
  3. confirms that the lands to be developed do not comprise specialty crop areas in accordance with policy 2.3.2;
  4. is integrated with planning for infrastructure and public service facilities; and
  5. considers cross-jurisdictional issues.

Settlement Areas

Row HousingThe PPS, 2005 policies support settlement areas by focusing growth in these areas and requiring that their vitality and regeneration be promoted. Giving priority to compact form, redevelopment, intensification and brownfield redevelopment, as well as ensuring settlement area boundary expansions are only considered when supported by a comprehensive review, helps to create sustainable communities for the long term.

Focusing growth in settlement areas and using land more efficiently can lead to more lively and vibrant communities, less traffic congestion and improved air quality.

PPS, 2005 policy 1.1.3.9 provides that a planning authority may identify a settlement area or allow the expansion of a settlement area boundary only at the time of a comprehensive review, and it must demonstrate that certain criteria are addressed. A planning authority must demonstrate that: Neighbourhood playground
  • sufficient growth opportunities are not available through intensification, redevelopment and designated growth areas
  • infrastructure (e.g. sewage and water systems, transit and transportation corridors and facilities) and public service facilities (e.g. recreation, police and fire protection) are or will be available and suitable for development over the long term
  • the lands do not comprise specialty crop areas, and there are no reasonable alternatives that avoid prime agricultural areas
  • furthermore, where there are no reasonable alternatives that avoid prime agricultural areas, it must be demonstrated that there are no reasonable alternatives on lower priority agricultural lands in prime agricultural areas
  • impacts from new or expanding settlement areas on agricultural operations, which are adjacent to or near the settlement area, are mitigated to the extent feasible.

Community parkIn determining the most appropriate direction for expansions to the boundaries of settlement areas or the identification of a settlement area, a planning authority shall also apply the policies of Section 2 (Wise Use and Management of Resources) and Section 3 (Protecting Public Health and Safety) of the PPS, 2005.

Ensuring a comprehensive review is undertaken before the identification of a settlement area or the expansion of a settlement area boundary, helps a municipality to better manage its development and growth and avoids unnecessary expansions. This results in more efficient land use planning and better management of municipal resources. It also reinforces the government’s commitment to using land more efficiently through compact form, redevelopment and intensification helping to reduce urban sprawl, protect greenspace and ensure the efficient use of existing infrastructure.

Settlement areas: means urban areas and rural settlement areas within municipalities (such as cities, towns, villages and hamlets) that are:

a) built up areas where development is concentrated and which have a mix of land uses; and

b) lands which have been designated in an official plan for development over the long term planning horizon provided for in policy 1.1.2. In cases where land in designated growth areas is not available, the settlement area may be no larger than the area where development is concentrated.

Policy Highlights for Settlement Areas

Office towers
  • Boundary expansions and identification of new settlement areas only at the time of comprehensive review
  • No settlement expansions onto specialty crop areas
  • Planning authorities to identify and promote opportunities for intensification and redevelopment, including brownfield redevelopment
  • Planning authorities to set and implement minimum targets for intensification in built up areas
  • Orderly progression of development within designated growth areas

Employment Areas

There are increasing pressures in many communities to convert employment lands to other uses, such as low density housing. It is important to protect needed employment lands for the long term. The PPS, 2005 policies require that communities have sufficient land to support their future economic prosperity. Municipalities can designate and zone employment lands to sustain the local economic base over the long term.

PPS, 2005 policy 1.3.2 states that a planning authority may permit the conversion of lands within employment areas to non-employment uses through a comprehensive review, only where it has been demonstrated that the land is not required for employment purposes over the long term and that there is a need for the conversion.

Employment area: means those areas designated in an official plan for clusters of business and economic activities including, but not limited to, manufacturing, warehousing, offices, and associated retail and ancillary facilities.

Rail yard

Policy Highlights for Employment Areas

  • Ensure an adequate supply of land and opportunities to accommodate a range and mix of industrial, commercial and other employment uses to meet long-term needs
  • Maintain opportunities for a diversified economic base and range and choice of employment lands
  • Permit conversions of employment lands to other uses only through a comprehensive review where it is demonstrated the land is not needed for employment purposes over the long term and there is a need for the conversion

The Planning and Conservation Land Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006 (Bill 51)

The Planning and Conservation Land Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006, changed the Planning Act to help protect employment areas from conversion to other uses. In the short and long terms, giving municipalities the ability to protect employment lands helps to ensure adequate lands in strategic locations will be available for economic investment. For Ontario communities, this means jobs and the increased capacity to remain economically competitive at local, national and global levels.

An applicant can no longer appeal council’s decision to refuse or failure to adopt an official plan or zoning by-law amendment that proposes to remove any land from an area of employment, even if other land is proposed to be added. This restriction only applies if the municipality has official plan policies in place dealing with employment land conversions.

Industry in Hamilton

To ensure consideration is given to changing circumstances, municipalities need to confirm or amend their policies dealing with areas of employment, including the land use designations and the policies dealing with conversion of employment lands, when they undertake the 5-year review of their official plans. At that time, or if a municipality decides to alter an employment area boundary at any time, the decision would be subject to appeal. These requirements will allow for public review (and potential Ontario Municipal Board appeals) of the conversion policies and provide transparency in the process.

The conversion of employment lands to other uses is still possible when supported by council or the approval authority, provided that pursuant to the PPS, 2005 a comprehensive review is undertaken to determine if the conversion is necessary, and that the land is not required for employment purposes over the long term.


Rural Areas in Territory Without Municipal Organization

Rural village storeThe PPS, 2005 policies help focus resource-based development in rural areas in territory without municipal organization, recognizing the role that these uses and activities have in these areas.

PPS, 2005 policy 1.1.5.3 directs that in rural areas in territory without municipal organization that are adjacent to and surrounding municipalities, only development that is related to the management or use of resources and resource-based recreational activity shall be permitted unless certain conditions are met. These conditions include:

  • that the area forms part of a planning area
  • that a comprehensive review determines the impacts of growth will not place an undue strain on public service facilities and infrastructure provided by adjacent municipalities, regions and/or the Province.

For the purposes of policy 1.1.5, the definition of comprehensive review is:

A review undertaken by a planning authority or comparable body which:

  1. addresses long-term population projections, infrastructure requirements and related matters;
  2. confirms that the lands to be developed do not comprise specialty crop areas in accordance with policy 2.3.2; and
  3. considers cross-jurisdictional issues.

Policy Highlights for Rural Areas in Territory Without Municipal Organization

  • The focus of development activities shall be activities and land uses related to the management of resources and resource-based recreation
  • Establishing new permanent townsites shall not be permitted
  • Development proposed in unincorporated areas adjacent to or surrounding municipalities that is not related to the management or use of resources, or is not a resource-based recreational activity, is only permitted if the area forms part of a planning area and the proposal is supported by a comprehensive review that demonstrates the impacts of growth will not put an undue strain on public service facilities and infrastructure provided by adjacent municipalities, regions, and/or the Province

High density development

Other Comprehensive Review Considerations

Comprehensive reviews are official plan reviews that are initiated by a planning authority, or official plan amendments that are initiated or adopted by a planning authority. Council’s decision on these reviews must be consistent with the PPS, 2005. A comprehensive review undertaken for the identification of settlement areas and the expansion of their boundaries, or the conversion of employment areas to non-employment uses can be initiated by single, upper-tier or local municipalities. It may also be privately initiated. At a minimum, the comprehensive review needed as part of an official plan review or an official plan amendment to permit an urban boundary expansion or the conversion of employment areas to non-employment uses, must be based on:
  • a review of long-term population and growth projections, which reflect the allocations and projections of upper-tier municipalities and provincial plans, where applicable
  • a determination of the best way to accommodate growth while protecting provincial interests
  • the utilization of opportunities to accommodate projected growth through intensification and redevelopment
  • consideration of alternative directions for growth, for example, to avoid prime agricultural areas
  • confirmation that no specialty crop areas are included in the lands to be developed
  • integration of planning for infrastructure and public service facilities
  • consideration of cross-jurisdictional issues, for example, ensuring planning matters such as managing growth, resources and infrastructure that cross lower, single and/ or upper-tier municipal boundaries are coordinated
  • any additional requirements established by provincial plans.

It should be noted that each planning authority is responsible for deciding what additional studies are appropriate to support a comprehensive review based on the nature of the proposal and on the local context.Retrofit condominium

In recognition of the role that upper-tier municipalities have in growth management, lower-tier municipalities should consult with their respective upper-tier municipalities when conducting a comprehensive review.

The PPS, 2005 directs that where planning is conducted by an upper-tier municipality, the upper-tier municipality must identify, co-ordinate and allocate population, housing and employment projections for local municipalities. Consequently, a comprehensive review that is initiated privately or by a local municipality may necessitate a comprehensive review to be undertaken by the upper-tier municipality. For instance, if the private or locally initiated comprehensive review contemplates going beyond, and is not in conformity with, the growth projections of the upper-tier official plan, then an upper-tier comprehensive review would be required. In cases where the scope of the proposal contemplates development not in conformity with the upper-tier official plan, a local municipality should complete its comprehensive review concurrent with or following an upper-tier comprehensive review to ensure conformity with the upper-tier official plan. Where there is no upper-tier planning function, the planning authority or the proponent must ensure that the comprehensive review is undertaken and is consistent with the PPS,2005.

Ontario’s communities are diverse with regional variations in population levels, economic activity and pace of growth. Recognizing this, population, growth and employment projections that are established by the upper-tier official plan should be coordinated and reflected in the local comprehensive review. In making decisions on where growth should occur, planning authorities need to be consistent with the PPS, 2005 and must take into account the form of the proposed development, the suitability of infrastructure and servicing,and each municipality’s and/or region’s specific circumstances.


This InfoSheet intends to assist participants in the land use planning process to understand the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005. As this InfoSheet deals in summarized fashion with complex matters and reflects legislation, policies and practices that are subject to change, it should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice in connection with any particular matter. This InfoSheet should not be construed as legal advice and the user is solely responsible for any use or the application of this InfoSheet. Although this InfoSheet has been carefully prepared, the Ministry does not accept any legal responsibility for the contents of this InfoSheet or for any consequences, including direct or indirect liability, arising from its use.


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