New Neptis Foundation report reveals unchecked urban sprawl a serious threat to Greater Golden Horseshoe’s remaining farmland

Mar 10, 2017

March 9, 2017

Toronto, ON – The Neptis Foundation, an independent planning think tank released a new report today that looks at disturbing trends in land use planning in rural towns and villages across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) Region. The report shows that rural communities, including those in places such as Simcoe County, are being targeted for large-scale urban growth, contrary to the intent of the provincial Growth Plan.

The result is that farmland has already been paved over for unsustainable low-density sprawl development and that up to 31 thousand acres of more farmland areas are at immediate risk. Even more shocking is that this low-density rural development has been counted as contributing to meeting “intensification” goals within municipalities.

It’s clear that this new research demonstrates first-hand the threat to farmland in the region.

“With over 400 small rural towns and villages in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, most of them sitting on prime Ontario farmland, this data underscores the need for the province to close this loophole and move to freeze urban boundaries now,” said Kathryn Enders, Executive Director of Ontario Farmland Trust. “Doing so will ensure that farming and agriculture remain part of Ontario’s economy today and in the future. Otherwise, we risk losing farms, farming families and local food for our region forever.” She added, “Bottom line, rural areas should not be a focus for large-scale urban growth.”

This unplanned and unaccounted for development has serious implications for the GGH region.

“The government must move now to stop more of this rogue development from paving over the rest of southern Ontario’s farmland and permanently gutting the province’s Growth Plan,” said Margaret Prophet of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. “Most troubling is that it’s clear that the development industry has been sprawling onto even more farmland than anyone previously understood. Massive sprawl in small towns and villages that are not designed to handle large-scale urban growth increases the stress on our water resources.” She continued, “We can find ways to balance our need for healthy, affordable places to live with our need for a vibrant agricultural community and healthy environment. We must work closer with our municipal leaders to ensure that these crucial interests are met.“

“Ontario’s Growth Plan is supposed to put the province on a more sustainable land use path toward less sprawl, more compact development and complete communities,” stated Kevin Thomason of Smart Growth Waterloo Region.  “We need to grow existing urban areas, to create neighbourhoods well served by transit, with a wide variety of services and amenities for residents – not create dozens of distant hollow commuter enclaves with little hope of public transit, and few jobs or local employment opportunities.  These hamlets have hardly any of the shops, schools, libraries and recreation facilities that people desire.”

Thomason continued, “If this outrageous growth of small villages and paving over of rural areas outside the provincial Growth Plan’s growth centres is not corrected, we will have fragmented communities, a fragmented agricultural system, commuting chaos and huge tax increases to pay for really inefficient infrastructure. We can’t let this happen in Ontario.”

The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is urging the province to act to protect prime farmland and natural areas by closing the door on this inappropriate development in rural towns and villages across the GGH. The government needs to immediately freeze urban boundaries, and kill this huge rural sprawl loophole in the Growth Plan.

About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance ( The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a defender of Ontario’s innovative Greenbelt. The Alliance brings together more than 120 environmental and public health organizations, community groups, ratepayer groups and local environmental organizations to ensure the continued protection and expansion of the Greenbelt. The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance believes that a strong economy and a beautiful well-protected Greenbelt go hand in hand.


For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence,  416-323-9521 ext. 232; 416-885-7847 (cell);