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Professor Mark Winfield: GTA's urban growth raises important questions

Professor Mark Winfield: GTA's urban growth raises important questions

York University environmental studies Professor Mark Winfield of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, who sits on a provincial smart growth advisory panel and studies urban sustainability, said the Star’s analysis – the first of its kind – raises important questions about how the 2006 Places to Grow plan is playing out, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 15, in a story about growth plans recently unveiled by the GTA’s four regions and 25 municipalities, and Ontario’s Places to Grow scheme to curb urban sprawl:

“On the surface, (the plan) may have given municipalities too much flexibility and enabled some of them to deviate less from the traditional path than the plan sought to and they needed to,” said Winfield. “You’ve got some strong responses in places like Markham. Toronto itself has stepped up. But in other places the response is somewhat weaker,” he said, after poring over the Star’s numbers. “Mississauga is quite striking. You clearly have leaders thinking in a more ambitious and creative way, and you have others who are basically wedded to the sprawl model and trying to respond to the province within that framework.”

Brampton, Winfield points out, pre-empted the growth plan by designating the entire area inside its city limits for urban expansion – including vast stretches of farmland – so it wouldn’t have to justify allowing new growth outside what’s termed the “urban boundary.”

Winfield said the province still needs to do a deeper analysis that looks at what’s happening across the GTA: not just the densities being planned, but also the population allocations and the kind of communities being planned.

He says it’s time to assess the impact of the province’s massive interventions in regional planning, including creating the Greenbelt – which made a huge swath a no-go zone for developers – and Places to Grow, which oversees what’s left.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin