Municipal Class Environmental Assessment
Part A - Class EA Planning Process


Master Plans

The preceding section has addressed the planning and design process by which municipalities may plan municipal works on a project by project basis. It is recognized, however, that in many cases it is beneficial to begin the planning process by considering a group of related projects, or an overall system, e.g. water, wastewater and/or roads network, or a number of integrated systems, e.g. infrastructure master plan, prior to dealing with project specific issues. By planning in this way, the need and justification for individual projects and the associated broader context, are better defined.

At a minimum, Master Plans address Phases 1 and 2 of the Municipal Class EA.

Master Plans are long range plans which integrate infrastructure requirements for existing and future land use with environmental assessment planning principles. These plans examine an infrastructure system(s) or group of related projects in order to outline a framework for planning for subsequent projects and/or developments. At a minimum, Master Plans address Phases 1 and 2 of the Municipal Class EA process.

The following section outlines a framework whereby this Class EA recognizes the place of such Master Planning studies in guiding sound environmental planning at the project-specific level. This approach recognizes that there are real benefits in terms of better planning when long range comprehensive studies are undertaken over logical planning units, such as at the regional level, and that proponents who undertake such studies can build on the recommendations and conclusions contained in them. Additional explanatory information and sample notices are provided in Appendix 4.

Master Plans typically differ from project-specific studies in several key respects. Long range infrastructure planning enables the proponent to comprehensively identify need and establish broader infrastructure options. The combined impact of alternatives is also better understood which may lead to other and better solutions. In addition, the opportunity to integrate with land use planning enables the proponent to look at the full impact of decisions from a variety of perspectives. The following are distinguishing features of Master Plans:

  1. The scope of Master Plans is broad and usually includes an analysis of the system in order to outline a framework for future works and developments. Master Plans are not typically undertaken to address a site-specific problem.
  2. Master Plans typically recommend a set of works which are distributed geographically throughout the study area and which are to be implemented over an extended period of time. Master Plans provide the context for the implementation of the specific projects which make up the plan and satisfy, as a minimum, Phases 1 and 2 of the Class EA process. Notwithstanding that these works may be implemented as separate projects, collectively these works are part of a larger management system. Master Plan studies in essence conclude with a set of preferred alternatives and, therefore, by their nature, Master Plans will limit the scope of alternatives which can be considered at the implementation stage.


A.2.7.1 The Master Planning Process


The work undertaken in the preparation of Master Plans should recognize the Planning and Design Process of this Class EA, and should incorporate the key principles of successful environmental assessment planning identified in Section A.1.1. It is imperative that public and agency consultation take place during each phase of the study process, specifically, at the initiation of the Master Plan study so that the scope and purpose of the study is understood, and at the selection of the preferred set of alternatives. At a minimum, the Master Planning process should address the first two phases in the Planning and Design Process of the Class EA.

When projects are undertaken which implement specific elements recommended in the Master Plan, it will be necessary for the applicable schedule to be determined for those projects subject to the Municipal Class EA. Depending on the scope and level of analysis of the Master Plan, the requirements of Phases 1 and 2 may have been satisfied at the project-specific level. Alternatively, Phases 1 and 2 may have to be revisited as they relate to the specific project. In addition, for Schedule B projects, it would be necessary to fulfil the consultation and documentation requirements. For Schedule C projects, it would be necessary to fulfil the additional requirements of Phases 3 and 4 and consider the site-specific issues which were beyond the scope of the Master Planning process.

Thus the Master Plan would be used in support of further work carried out for specific Schedule B projects and further work in Phases 3 and 4 for specific Schedule C projects. Requests for an order to comply with Part II of the EA Act, however, would be possible only for the specific projects identified in the Master Plan and not the Master Plan itself.


Proponents are urged to discuss their Master Plan approach with the EAA Branch prior to proceeding

Appendix 4 outlines various approaches to conducting Master Plans and provides sample notices. Given the broad scope of Master Plans, there are infinite variations on the basic approaches described in Appendix 4. Regardless of the approach, the onus is on the proponent to ensure that the requirements of the Municipal Class EA are met. Prior to commencing a Master Plan, proponents are urged to contact the EAA Branch to discuss their proposed approach.

A.2.7.2 Master Plan - Monitoring


In order to monitor the effectiveness and benefits of this approach, proponents are required to briefly summarize how the Master Plan followed Class EA requirements and copy this to the EAA Branch, including copies of mandatory notices.