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Frequently Asked Questions
Mandate & Activities
The Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) is a regulatory agency of the Ontario Government that manages development on the Niagara Escarpment.
Yes. The NEC is a statutory body that operates at arm's length from the Ontario Government in accordance with the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (NEPDA) and the Agency Establishment and Accountability Directive under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). The NEC is mandated to develop, interpret and apply NEP policies that maintain and enhance the vitality of the Escarpment’s unique environmental and landscape features. Its decisions are made independently, impartially, and according to a risk management framework.
The Commission meets monthly to consider development permits and land use proposals, policy items, and NEP amendments. Meetings are open to the public and are usually held at the NEC’s main office in Georgetown.
A Niagara Escarpment Development Permit is similar to a municipal building permit. The difference is that a Development Permit considers the impact of a development proposal on the landscape and natural environment of the Niagara Escarpment.
Note: Municipal building approvals and other permits may also be required but those can only be issued after the Development Permit.
The Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) protects the Escarpment’s unique ecological, historic and scenic qualities. To ensure that the Escarpment’s natural resources, ecosystem health and scenic landscape are protected, Niagara Escarpment landowners are required to obtain a development permit for certain types of development within the Area of Development Control in Regulation 826.
Applications for Development Permits can include:
- proposals for new single dwellings or additions/renovations to them
- infrastructure including roads and pipelines
- sand and gravel pits
- lot creation
- agriculture including on-farm diversified uses and agriculture-related uses and the establishment of wineries
- irrigation or recreational ponds
- altering the grade of land including the importation of excess soil
- changes in the use of any land, building or structure
- special events including any associated temporary signs, parking areas, buildings or structures
Minor alterations to a property or structure may not require a Permit. For a list of possible exemptions, please see section Ontario Regulation 828/90 and consult with NEC staff.
If your application is for a temporary or recurring event, you must submit your application well in advance of the scheduled date to allow NEC staff enough to review your application. You may also require a municipal special event permit, so contact your local municipality about their requirements.
Use our interactive map to determine if your property is located within the Niagara Escarpment Plan Area and/or Area of Development Control.
- This application and its content are made available by the Niagara Escarpment Commission as a public service without warranties of any kind, expressed or implied.
- The Niagara Escarpment Plan area and area of Development Control shown in the interactive map is for illustrative purposes only. For accurate interpretation, refer to Niagara Escarpment Plan area and/or the Development Control Area.
- The Niagara Escarpment Plan Designation boundaries shown in the interactive map are approximate and subject to confirmation through site inspection and the application of the “Interpretation of Boundaries” section of the Niagara Escarpment Plan.
- The technology to convert the maps on this page to an accessible format is not currently available. These maps may not be compatible with screen reader software. If you are unable to access these maps, please contact email@example.com.
If you have determined that your property falls within the Niagara Escarpment Plan area and/or Area of Development Control, you are strongly encouraged to consult with the NEC prior to submitting your application.
To assist you with completing your Development Permit application, the NEC has prepared a document outlining the requirements for the submission of a complete application. After reading the Technical Criteria for Pre-consultation and Applications, you may contact NEC staff to discuss your application.
If you are ready to start the Development Permit application process, you must complete and submit the following documents:
- Niagara Escarpment Development Permit Application Form
- Any related supporting documents such as site plans, building plans, technical reports etc.
There is no charge to apply for a Development Permit from the NEC.
Once your application package has been received, a planner is assigned to handle your application. The planner will review the application for completeness and assess the potential impacts of the proposed development on the environment against the NEP policies and requirements that protect the Niagara Escarpment’s scenic resources, ecological and historic features.
The planner will write a report recommending approval if:
- your proposal is a “permitted use” in the Plan
- your proposal meets the policies and development criteria of the Plan
- other agencies are satisfied and support the application
Applications that are not in conflict with the Niagara Escarpment Plan and that are non-complex or routine in nature may be given a director’s approval. Applications that do not comply with the Plan, or have been objected to by a consulted agency, or deal with developments already commenced without a Development Permit must go before the Niagara Escarpment Commission at a scheduled meeting.
Upon approval of a development permit application, there will be conditions attached. The number and type of conditions will depend on the complexity of your application.