City Departments

Official Plan/Official Plan Review

The Official Plan affects all land within the city of Cambridge. It provides a vision for future growth and generally guides where new homes, schools, businesses and parks should be located. The Official Plan includes policies with respect to the construction of new services such as roads and sewers as well as protecting our natural and built heritage. More details on the contents of an Official Plan can be found in the Official Plan Citizens Guide

Status of the Official Plan

On May 7, 2012 Cambridge City Council adopted the new Official Plan for the City of Cambridge (2012 Cambridge Official Plan) in accordance with the Planning Act. On November 21, 2012 the Region of Waterloo Council approved the 2012 Cambridge Official Plan with some modifications and deferrals Notice of Approval for the Cambridge Official Plan. This document can be viewed at Cambridge Official Plan

After the Region approved the 2012 Cambridge Official Plan several appeals to the Ontario Municipal; Board were received, some of which have subsequently been dealt with. A table of OP Outstanding Appeals is available, which identifies those portions of the 2012 Cambridge Official Plan which are not yet in full force and effect.

Official Plan Review Background Work

The City has updated the 1999 Official Plan to ensure it reflects, evolves, improves and realizes the City's full potential in all matters related to planning for now and into the future. In addition, the Official Plan update was undertaken to ensure the Cambridge Official Plan is in conformity with Provincial and Regional policies and plans as required by the Planning Act. Prior to drafting a new Official Plan a series of topical discussion and policy papers were developed and vetted through the Official Plan Review Community Advisory Committee and Cambridge Council.

The background reports include:

Official Plan Review Draft Policy Papers as of May 2011

Official Plan Review Draft Maps as of May 2011

Hemson Report or Growth Management Strategy: Land Inventory and Capacity Analysis, October 2009

Cambridge Intensification Study

Discussion Papers were prepared regarding various topics. Each discussion paper sets out the changes that have occurred to Provincial policies and the Regional Official Plan related to the topic. Also included was a summary of the studies and work completed by the City of Cambridge in recent tears along with an outline of the potential issues that needed to be addressed in the review of the Official Plan.

Public Consultation

As part of Official Plan Review extensive public consultation was undertaken, e.g. public information centers in the Cambridge Centre, as well as Downtown Galt, Preston Towne Centre and Hespeler Village in June of 2011. Formal public meetings were held on September 12, 2011 and October 17, 2011. An Official Plan Review Community Advisory Committee (OPRCAC) was established to provide input throughout the Official Plan Review process. This Committee included representatives from Cambridge Council, citizens at large and stakeholder representatives.

In addition, two draft versions of a new Cambridge Official Plan were released for public review and comment in June, 2011 and February, 2012. The public and agencies were requested to submit their comments on the first draft Official Plan by October 31, 2011 and on the second draft Official Plan by February 24, 2012. An information session was held with Cambridge Council on February 13, 2012 in order for Council to hear comments from the public. All comments received were analyzed and a response provided in an overall report to Council provided below:

Report to Council Feb 2012 and Appendix 1 (163 Pages)

Appendix 2 Map Package A (75 Pages)

Appendix 2 Map Package B (10 Pages)

Appendix 3 Public Agency Comments (219 Pages)

Appendix 4 Comment Response Forms (577 Pages)

Appendix 5 Draft Official Plan, Version 2, 2012 (336 Pages)

In addition Policies Proposed to be Deleted from the 1999 Official Plan was included in a separate document.

What is the Official Plan?

The City of Cambridge Official Plan is a policy document that sets out the City's general land use direction for long-term growth and development in a coordinated way to meet the community's needs. It also provides a way to evaluate and settle conflicting land uses while meeting local, Regional and Provincial interests.

The Official Plan is made up of text and maps. The text typically includes policies describing the land use designations within the City along with a general list of permitted uses in each of the designations. The policies also generally deal with matters such as: Housing; Commercial; Industrial; Heritage; Agricultural; Parks and Open Space; and Transportation and Infrastructure. The maps divide lands in the city into different land use designations which are read in conjunction with the policies to determine which uses are permitted in certain parts of the city.

An Official Plan is a legal document. It is periodically reviewed to ensure that it continues to meet the changing economic, social and environmental needs of the municipality and address Provincial and Regional policies. Occasionally, it is necessary to amend certain policies and/or map designations which are called Amendments. The Planning Act set out procedures that must be followed by municipalities in preparing and reviewing an Official Plan and in processing changes to the Official Plan, including opportunities for public input.

Opportunities for public review and input are provided prior to the City adopting any changes to the Official Plan.

When Zoning By-laws, site plans, city budgets and other programs are implemented, they incorporate and reflect the intent of the Official Plan. An over-arching document that guides these local processes.

What is the Planning Act?

The Planning Act is a legal document which is passed by the Province and sets out the ground rules for land use planning in Ontario and describes how land uses may be dealt with.

What is the difference between an Official Plan and a Zoning By-law?

The Official Plan sets out a municipality's general policies for current and future land uses. The by-law sets out the permitted uses (e.g. commercial or residential) and the required standards (e.g. building size and location) in each area. Zoning by-law regulations must follow the policies of the Official Plan.

Most municipalities such as Cambridge have a comprehensive zoning by-law that divides the municipality into different land use areas referred to as zones on detailed maps. Construction of new development that doesn't comply with a Zoning By-law is not permitted, and a municipality cannot issue a building permit for development that does not meet the regulations in its Zoning By-law.

To see an example of how the Official Plan and Zoning By-law work together, please click on the links below.

Map of City showing subject area in the red box.
Map North Hespeler

Air Photo of subject area (north part of Hespeler), east of Highway 24, south of Blackbridge Road
Hespeler Map

Same area displaying the Official Plan Designations. Notice that the Official Plan Designations are quite broad in classifying lands as Residential (Class 1, Urban), Open Space (Class 1, Significant Natural Features), and to the north, Agricultural Resource District (Class 1, Prime).
Official Plan Designation

Same area displaying the more detailed Zoning Classifications of Low Density Residential, Medium High Density Residential, Open Space, Industrial and Agricultural.
Official Plan

Same area showing the subdivision plans.

Information Sources:

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website provides useful information, particularly if you enter the Land Use Planning pages. The Citizens Guides to Land Use Planning provide an overview of the planning process in Ontario.

To search and browse all current provincial statutes and regulations including the Planning Act the e-laws site at is suggested.

Where can I direct questions or comments?

Manager of Policy Planning
Development & Infrastructure Department
City of Cambridge
50 Dickson Street, 3rd Floor
PO Box 669
Cambridge, Ontario
N1R 5W8
(519) 621-0740 ext. 4601

Senior Policy Planner
Development & Infrastructure,
City of Cambridge
50 Dickson Street, 3rd Floor
PO Box 669
Cambridge, Ontario
N1R 5W8
(519) 621-0740 ext. 4575

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