Using the population growth rates and proposed housing development rates provided in the 2041 document, we calculated a percent change for each municipality from 2016 to 2041. The percent change highlights West Lincoln to have the highest relative projected population growth (see map).
The percent change also highlights Port Colborne to have the highest relative proposed housing growth (see map). Further correlation analysis revealed that the proposed housing development does not match up well with the projected population growth.
There are several Planning initiatives that play a role in dictating where housing development occurs:
According to the 2020 Provincial Policy Statement 2.1.4: "Development and site alteration shall not be permitted in: (a) significant wetlands of Ecoregions 5E, 6E and 7E; and (b) significant coastal wetlands". This protection is also extended to significant woodlands, significant valley lands, significant wildlife habitat, and significant areas of natural scientific interest, in 2.1.5 (b, c, d and e).
Key Natural Heritage features that are mapped as ECAs are less prohibitive to development. This means development can more likely occur in ECAs, while development is not permitted in EPAs.
If the purpose of the Green belt was to protect sensitive ecosystems, such as wetlands and species-at-risk habitat, then we expect to see most PSWs incorporated into this planning area. Unfortunately, our analysis showed only 4.6% of Niagara's wetlands fall within the Green belt boundaries. This means 95.4% of the region's wetlands fall within the Growth Planning Area.
In summary, the Green belt does not protect the majority of PSWs in Niagara. In fact, the planning boundary does better to protect specialty agricultural lands such as vineyards and orchards. While our agricultural lands are very unique and important for society, this leaves increased development pressure on our Natural Heritage features.
The Green Belt boundary was put in place to protect our natural lands that help provide essential ecosystem services. The Green Belt provides adequate protection of portions of the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine.