I am writing this article on holiday, deep in the English countryside of rural Dorset. The only sounds are of birds, and the occasional lamb baah-ing in the meadow next door. It’s hard to imagine a calmer and more peaceful place.
The setting is idyllic, but one would be wrong to assume that local governance here is any better than in Toronto.
This is a country where the national government in London sets local targets for new home-building. Local planning authorities are under pressure to meet those mandated targets. When county councils fail to do so, the result is a flood of speculative applications from developers to fill the gap.
The British press is full of details: many of the applications being filed contravene local planning requirements and existing neighbourhood plans. Many ignore road access, traffic impacts, and conservation concerns. Several would build housing estates in areas where schools are already full, and amenities like health services are already under stress.
The mayor of one town near here was quoted as saying that his District Council’s officers might give permission for new developments – regardless of their negative impacts on the community – simply to meet London’s government-imposed target. Other councillors refer to their areas as being ‘under siege’ from developers. This situation is repeated throughout the country. Meeting London’s targets takes priority regardless of local conditions. Sound familiar?
We in Toronto criticize how provincial planning legislation is all too often cited by the city to justify permitting applications for high-density developments all over the city. We question how density planning targets are set.
We debate how to protect communities like Leaside from ever more high-rise densification and all of its side-effects: more people equals more cars, which equals more pressures on transit, schools, and neighbourhoods. We ask what we, as residents, can do to take on and manage – and sometimes actually defeat – the development challenges we face. Certainly, this is a continuing concern for us in the Leaside Property Owners’ Association.
I am reminded of this as I enjoy what appears to be the peaceful English countryside. I may be far away from Leaside at the moment, but I am constantly reminded that, in our concerns about development pressures, we are not alone!
LPOA’s next board meeting is on WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8, at 7:30 p.m., in the Trace Manes building. These meetings are always open to the public. We invite you to attend, whether for help on local matters, to share your opinion or give advice, or just to hear more about what is happening in our community. Contact us anytime via our website, lpoa.ca.