Permitting and Planning relates to the roles and responsibilities of Conservation Halton as a regulatory authority, service provider, public commenting body, resource management agency, landowner and provincially-delegated reviewer for natural hazards. The department is made up of a multidisciplinary team including Environmental Planners, Planning Ecologists, Water Resource Engineers, Hydrogeologists and Regulations Officers.
The Planning and Regulations team at Conservation Halton carries out permitting, compliance and enforcement across the watershed as required by regulations enacted under the Conservation Authorities Act across the watershed. The team also reviews a range of planning and development applications, as well as technical studies, under the Planning Act, Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, Environmental Assessment Act and Aggregate Resources Act, and provides input on federal, provincial, regional and municipal policies and initiatives. The team is also responsible for developing policies and technical guides for permitting and plan review, which are approved by the Conservation Halton Board of Directors, as well as responding to changes to the Conservation Authorities Act.
Permitting and Planning includes the Floodplain Mapping program, which is responsible for updating flood hazard mapping across the watershed to support the planning and regulatory programs as well as flood warning and forecasting operations. This mapping also informs infrastructure design and management, flood mitigation efforts and emergency planning and response.
Section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act enables conservation authorities to develop regulations for certain activities in areas where public health and safety would be at risk because of naturally occurring processes (e.g., flooding, erosion) or where activities could either create a natural hazard or aggravate a natural hazard that already exists.
Permission is required from conservation authorities to undertake works in or adjacent to watercourses (including valley lands), wetlands, shorelines of inland lakes and hazardous lands as specified in S. 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act and attendant regulations (each conservation authority currently implements Ontario regulations specific to their area of jurisdiction).
In general, permits (permissions) may be granted where, in the opinion of the conservation authority, the control of flooding, erosion, dynamic beaches, pollution or the conservation of land is not affected, and any proposed interference with wetlands or alteration of watercourses is deemed acceptable (e.g., environmental restoration works or acceptable mitigation measures to reduce impacts).
The administration of the regulation is guided by policies approved by the Conservation Halton Board of Directors (Policies and Guidelines for the Administration of Ontario Regulation 162/06 and Land Use Planning, April 27, 2006, last amended, November 26, 2020). These policies complement the Ontario Provincial Policy Statement, Section 3.0 – Protecting Public Health and Safety and were developed with input from watershed municipalities and other stakeholders before they were approved.
If it can be demonstrated to the satisfaction of Conservation Halton that the proposed work meets the approved policies and will not affect the control of flooding, erosion, dynamic beaches or pollution or the conservation of land, Conservation Halton may grant permission for the proposed work.
Through the introduction of Ontario Regulation 686/21: Mandatory Programs and Services, under the Conservation Authorities Act, conservation authorities have been delegated the responsibility on behalf of the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNDMNRF) to review applications or other matters related to the Planning Act to ensure that they are consistent with the natural hazards policies in the policy statements issued under Section 3 of the Ontario Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 – Section 3.0, Protecting Public Health and Safety, but not including those policies related to hazardous forest types for wildland fire. The delegation of responsibility does not extend to other sections of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) unless specifically delegated or assigned in writing by the Province.
Under Ontario Regulation 686/21, conservation authorities are also mandated to comment on the risks related to natural hazards arising from a proposal under the following legislation, where the conservation authority considers it advisable:
- The Aggregate Resources Act
- The Drainage Act
- The Environmental Assessment Act
- The Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act
Under Section 21.1.1 (1) of the Conservation Authorities Act, municipalities can enter a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or agreement with conservation authorities which are located wholly or partially within their municipal boundaries to provide planning and technical services under the Planning Act on their behalf. These agreements detail the types and level of programs and services to be provided by the conservation authorities on behalf of the municipality and may cover a broad range of issues, including stormwater management, natural heritage features and systems advice, groundwater monitoring, subwatershed planning, etc.
Conservation Halton, in accordance with Sections 20 and 21 of the Conservation Authorities Act, is a local watershed-based natural resource management agency that is responsible for developing watershed-based resource management strategies that reflect local resource management needs within its jurisdiction. The programs and services included within the strategy can be mandatory, municipal or other, as defined in Section 21 and specified in Ontario Regulation 686/21. When providing advisory comments as a Resource Management Agency, Conservation Halton is guided by its watershed-based resource management strategy and policies approved by the Conservation Halton Board of Directors.
Conservation authorities are public bodies under Section 1 of the Planning Act and must be notified of municipal policy documents and applications under regulations made under the Planning Act.
With respect to natural hazards, whether acting as on behalf of MNDMNRF or as a public body, conservation authorities have the responsibility to review applications and other matters under the Planning Act and provide comments, technical support, or information to the responsible planning authority or, where requested, directly to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, as outlined in Section 7 of Ontario Regulation 686/21.
Conservation authorities may also be identified as commenting bodies under other Acts and Provincial Plans.
Conservation authorities are landowners, and as such, may become involved in the planning and development process, as a proponent or in a third-party capacity as an adjacent landowner.