To ensure that the Escarpment’s natural resources, health and ecosystems are protected, Niagara Escarpment landowners are required to get an Escarpment Development Permit for certain types of development.

The permit application process

A planner is assigned to handle your application. Maps are prepared to show the location of your proposal. Agencies such as your municipality, Health Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Conservation Authority, Ministry of Transportation, or others, may have regulations in your area. Your application is circulated to them.

When we get all comments, our staff write a report for the Commission. Applicants may contact the planner for an update on the progress of your application. The planner can also arrange a date for your application to be on the Commission’s agenda.

The Commission planner evaluates your application to see if it complies with the policies of the Niagara Escarpment Plan. The planner will write a report recommending approval:

  • if your proposal is a “permitted use”;
  • if it meets the development criteria of the Plan; and,
  • if other agencies (such as those above) are satisfied.

There will be conditions attached. Depending on the complexity of your application, conditions may be minimal or lengthy.

The planner will write a report recommending refusal:

  • if your proposal is not permitted by the Plan;
  • if it contravenes the local, regional or county Official Plan; or,
  • if there is a major issue raised by an agency that cannot be resolved.

A copy of the staff report will be available for you. More than 90% of development permit applications are approved.

Contact the NEC Planner for your region of the Escarpment – NEC Plans

Niagara Escarpment Commission

A Development Permit is similar to Municipal Building Permit they are designed to be sure that development in an environmentally compatible way. If you go to and see if the property is located on the NEC map and this will help with determining whether you will need to send an application to the NEC or not.  According to the NEC website the following are types or reasons that you would need to obtain an NEC Development Permit.

Development that Requires a Permit

  • constructing a house or cottage
  • constructing industrial, commercial, recreational or institutional building
  • changing the use of the property (residential to commercial)
  • changing the grade or topography of a site and importing fill or extracting aggregates
  • constructing a new road
  • creating/developing a new lot
  • constructing a pond or altering a watercourse or wetlands
  • establishing a home business
  • warehousing and outdoor storage
  • wind turbines and solar panels

Development that does NOT Require a Permit

  • interior decorating, repair or renovation (that does not change the use of structure)
  • exterior decorating, maintenance, or repair (that does not change the use of the structure)
  • general property maintenance and minor landscaping
  • planting and cultivation of trees or nursery stock
  • a residential well or its replacement
  • maintenance, repair or replacement of an existing septic system
  • maintenance, repair or replacement of an existing underground fuel storage tank
  • barrier free access for disabled people
  • cultivation of soils for farming

If you find that you require a Development Permit from the NEC you will need to complete a Development Permit Application at

Once you get your application completed the Grey Bruce Niagara Commission office is located in Thornbury

Niagara Escarpment Commission
99 King Street East, P.O. Box 308
Thornbury, ON N0H 2P0
Telephone: 519-599-3340
Fax: 519-599-6326

Once your application is received at the Commission Office they will assign your application to a Planner. If the application is a routine or non-complex the application may just be given Director’s Approval. If the permit is objected to or development that has commenced without a Development Permit it would be dealt with at Niagara Escarpment Commission Meeting. The Planners report will be presented at one of the their monthly public meetings.

The Niagara Escarpment Commission is a 17 member commission, 9 members represent the public-at-large, and the final 8 members are elected officials appointed by the eight counties & municipalities that make up the Niagara Escarpment.

The Niagara Escarpment usually requires further approvals from possibly Municipality, Health Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Conservation Authority, Ministry of Transportation depending on the application.

For further information on the Development Permit process contact the Niagara Escarpment directly or check out their website

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