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Regional Official Plan Explained - Natural Heritage System


Halton's Regional Official Plan preserves the natural environment in the Region. Learn more about Halton's Planning Vision in the Regional Official Plan.

What is Halton Region's Natural Heritage System (NHS)?

Halton Region has natural areas such as woodlands, wetlands, streams, creeks, valleylands, and meadows which provide habitat for diverse plants and animals. The remaining natural areas in Halton are considered our heritage and the heritage of future generations. Natural areas are healthy and best survive when connected and linked to other natural areas.

A Natural Heritage System results when various natural areas are connected and protected for present and future generations.

Why is the Natural Heritage System in Halton's Regional Official Plan?

Halton Region, like all municipalities in Ontario, is responsible for protecting the natural environment. Preserving natural heritage is a key component of Halton’s Planning Vision. The NHS provides environmental, health, economic, and cultural benefits for today and future generations.

Halton implements its Planning Vision through policies in its Regional Official Plan (ROP).

  • Learn more about Halton's Regional Official Plan
  • View Provincial Policy Statement, Section 2.1
  • Refer to ROP Section 25

What NHS policies are in the Regional Official Plan?

The Regional Official Plan sets out policies that protect and enhance the natural environment using a scientific and systems-based approach.

The NHS is made up of:

  • Regional NHS
  • Provincial Greenbelt NHS

The Regional NHS has two parts: Key Features and Areas Outside the Key Features

Key Features are ecologically important areas of land where development is prohibited or restricted. These include fish habitat, habitat of endangered and threatened species, wildlife habitat, wetlands, woodlands, valleylands, and areas of natural and scientific interest which are determined to be significant by the Province.

Areas Outside the Key Features help to strengthen and improve the health of the Key Features. These include enhancements, buffers, and linkages. The Region supports and promotes agriculture in Areas Outside the Key Features.

The Greenbelt NHS is where the policies of the Provincial Greenbelt Plan, 2017 are implemented as they apply to the Natural Heritage System. The Greenbelt NHS contains specific Key Features that include sand barrens, savannahs, tall grass prairies, streams, lakes, springs, seepage areas, alvars, and significant habitat of special concern species.

Although the Regional NHS and the Greenbelt NHS have different sets of planning policies, they work together to implement Halton’s vision of a sustainable Natural Heritage System.

For more information on the Regional NHS, please see Halton Region Official Plan.

For more information on the Greenbelt NHS, please see the Greenbelt Plan, 2017.

  • Refer to ROP Map 1G
  • Refer to ROP Section 113
  • Refer to ROP Section 114
  • Refer to ROP Section 115
  • Refer to ROP Section 139.3
  • Refer to ROP Section 253.4
  • Refer to ROP Section 235.1
  • Refer to ROP Section 276.4

Policy Implementation

Halton Region implements land use policies through the Regional Official Plan by permitting, prohibiting, and restricting uses in certain areas. A land use designation controls permitted uses in the Natural Heritage System. Local municipalities in Halton Region must conform to the Natural Heritage System policies of the ROP.

Development in the Natural Heritage System

Development in or next to the Natural Heritage System may trigger an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to demonstrate no negative impact on the NHS.

  • Refer to ROP Section 118
  • Refer to ROP Section 260.2