Philip Mcleod

The McLeod Report - London, Ontario

A regular commentary on civic affairs in London, Canada by journalist Philip McLeod.

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The London Plan, is it you?

LATEST REPORT #1,114: A meeting this afternoon begins the final stages of public participation in the shaping of The London Plan, described as our playbook for city building for the next 20 years. Is this your kind of city? Either way now is the time to say so.

Monday, June 22, 2015 – London Ontario

Okay, fellow citizens of the Forest City, what do you really think of The London Plan, version two?

City council wants to know, and this afternoon at 4 p.m., with a meeting of its planning and environment committee, begins a process to collect your views as we count down to final approval of the plan perhaps by year’s end.

As described by John Fleming, the city planner, in a report to committee members, The London Plan is “the playbook for city building for the next 20 years.”

When all the authorities are happy – once council says okay the next step is approval by the provincial government followed by, most likely, an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board – this document will become London’s new Official Plan, its first complete revision in 25 years.

Then, says Mr. Fleming, “It will guide the way we build our city to meet our long-term vision. Legislation requires that all public works and all bylaws must conform with The London Plan once it is approved.

"This means the way that we plan for, and build, our roads, municipal infrastructure, transit systems, parks, community facilities and civic spaces will be shaped by the plan. Growth and development that is permitted through the zoning bylaw and site plan bylaw must also be consistent with the plan.

The London Plan helps us to establish a platform for economic and business development, urban regeneration, environmental preservation, and heritage conservation through the way we will change and grow over the next 20 years.”

Given all that, the city is providing ample opportunity for Londoners, both private and professional, to present their views. There will be two evenings of public hearings this week – the second one is Wednesday at 4 p.m. – and more in September. Comments can also be made by an email link you’ll find on The London Plan website.

Anyone can attend the two public meetings this week and offer an opinion, although there is a five minute deadline. Some Londoners have already expressed themselves on the final version of the plan, including some who generally supportive but would like it to be clearer in certain sections. You can find their observations here

 One concern many of them share is what they feel is insufficient protection for natural heritage sites in The London Plan. In his submission, former city councillor Sandy Levin says there is a need in the plan for “a clear statement that the priority is to protect and enhance the natural heritage system and to distinguish the natural heritage system from parkland even when city owned.” 

Mr. Levin writes on behalf of the city council’s environmental and ecological planning advisory committee, of which he is chairperson.

Like most of those who have submitted their comments in advance, Mr. Levin takes umbrage with some of the spelling and grammar in the document.

Who we haven’t heard from yet are the heavy hitters of the development industry, some of whom may find their business interests curtailed, or at least amended, in the new plan. 

In general, The London Plan argues for a city that builds up or inward rather than sprawls outward. This does not mean there won’t in the future be residential developments on the city’s edges. It does mean council may not be as quick to approve them as in the past, encouraging instead in-fill or higher density projects.

No plan is forever, and none are written in indelible ink. That current official plan, approved in 1989, has been amended almost 600 times over the past 25 years. This one will be amended too.

In fact, it already has been. Mr. Fleming’s report to the committee meeting tonight outlines hundreds of little changes, corrections, additions and subtractions. But the core values remain – and will. As Mr. Fleming notes “The London Plan will have a direct impact on all residents of London; its policies address matters from infrastructure development to streetscapes, and address matters such as neighbourhood design, transportation, environmental protection, parks and recreation, farmland preservation and affordable housing.”

The question now is, what do you really think about all that? The last chances to comment, and perhaps change the outcome, are at hand.

UPDATE: 6/22/15 Correction to the number of amendments, 600 rather than 6,000.