The Planning Act, is the central piece of legislation governing land use planning in the Province of Ontario.
The Act is organized around the following Parts:
- Part 1 Provincial Administration
- Part 2 Local Planning Administration
- Part 3 Official Plans
- Part 4 Community Improvement
- Part 5 Land Use Controls and Related Administration
- Part 6 Subdivision of Land
- Part 7 General
At one time the Planning Act was the only statute governing land use planning and development in the Province of Ontario, with the exception of the Municipal Act which contained the enabling provisions for zoning by-laws (then called “restricted area by-laws”) until the 1960s when the provisions were transferred into the Planning Act.
The first Planning Act, enacted in 1946 to replace a statute called the Planning and Development Act, contained only 31 sections. It dealt with the making of official plans (through planning boards and council) for the first time, Minister’s zoning orders and the subdivision of land through plans of subdivision (a holdover from the Planning and Development Act) along with a few other matters.
In the following years, the Planning Act was amended gradually to respond to the pressures of post-war development, the increasing competence of municipal governments and the increasing role of citizens in the planning approvals process.
Eventually, regional planning became an important element of development in the province, in particular in what is now known as the Greater Toronto Area. As a result, regional governments were created and older municipal entities were merged to create more efficient planning and development delivery organizations. More and more development control tools were given to municipalities, such as site plan control, holding by-laws and interim control by-laws.
At the same time, the Province moved from a body which closely supervised the planning and development activities of municipalities through the approval of official plans (by the Minister) and restrictive area (zoning) by-laws (by the Ontario Municipal Board) to one that set policies and required that the policies be implemented by the municipalities and private development (through such instruments as the Provincial Policy Statement and provincial plans).
Amendments to the Planning Act (and the introduction of related legislation, like the Places to Grow Act, 2005) over the years reflected these changes.
Now, the Planning Act stands in the middle of a galaxy of statutes regulating land use and development in the province. We have prepared a schematic representation of the relationship of the Planning Act to other related provincial statutes to assist in a better understanding of the complex inter-relationships which exist in this sphere.
Bill 139, Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017, represents the latest provincial initiative to change the way that planning and development is undertaken in the province.