Government of Nova
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History of Nova Scotia Planning Legislation


In 2008 the Province enacted An Act Respecting the Halifax Regional Municipality, also referred to as the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Charter. This gave HRM its own legislation, including powers with regard to planning, separate from other municipalities, Initially the Charter was almost identical to the MGA, but subsequent, and likely future amendments, means HRM has different and unique planning tools.


In 1998 the provincial government decided to combine all legislation relevant to municipalities, including planning legislation, into one Act called the Municipal Government Act (MGA). The MGA came into effect on April 1st, 1999. The 1983 Planning Act was revised and modernized when it was brought into the MGA, and there were a few major changes. In particular, the provisions for provincial land use policy were replaced with Provincial Interest Statements and, in fact, five statements were adopted when the MGA came into effect. The five statements dealt with: preserving high quality farmland, preventing development on known floodplains, protecting municipal drinking water supply areas, providing for affordable housing, and making the best use of existing infrastructure. The MGA is a dynamic Act and has been and continues to be amended on a regular basis to keep it current.


In 1983, again with the assistance of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, a new Planning Act was enacted. This new Act established the foundation for modern planning in Nova Scotia. Instead of regional planning the Act provided the province with the ability to establish provincial land use policy and regulations. No such policies were ever adopted but provincial subdivision regulations were introduced which, for the first time, applied across the entire province.


The 1939 Act was not adequate to cope with the planning needs of the 60's and further into the 70's. A new Planning Act was developed in 1969 under the authorship of R. S. Lang. This new Act had as its focus regional planning to be carried out by the Province. Municipal plans would then be written to coordinate with the regional plan. While the concept of regional planning was a good one, only one such plan was ever adopted. The Halifax Dartmouth Regional Plan was adopted by the Province in 1975. By the early 80's the failure of regional planning meant the Act itself was out of date.


Building on the strengths of the 1915 Act and attempting to correct some enforcement shortcomings, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities established a committee to review the Act in 1937. The new Town Planning Act was introduced in 1939 and proclaimed in 1943. Power over planning was moved to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Rather than forcing planning, more emphasis was placed on providing municipalities with advice and technical assistance. In 1957 the Department of Municipal Affairs first established the Community Planning Division.


A paper delivered by Mr. Raymond Urwin in 1913 to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities was the foundation for the Town Planning Act of 1915. This Act made planning compulsory, required streets and subdivisions to be approved by a Planning Board, and introduced the notion of no injurious affection in planning matters. Thomas Adams, the grandfather of planning in Canada, hailed this Act as the best such legislation in either Europe or North America.


The first provincial planning legislation enacted in Nova Scotia was the Town Planning Act of 1912.