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Study finds how much Delta farmland went to non-farm use, subdivisions

Kwantlen study finds majority of land removed from Metro Vancouver ALR to serve public uses
delta farmland
The City of Delta plans to revise its own agricultural plan next year.

There are hidden threats to maintaining the Agricultural Land Reserve.

That’s among the early conclusions in a research project underway by Kwantlen Polytechnic University, which is undertaking analysis of approved non-farm use and subdivision applications in Metro Vancouver from 1997 to 2016.

Members of the university’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems made a presentation on their findings to the City of Delta’s Agricultural Advisory Committee earlier this month, noting the project is about 90 per cent complete and a final report will be available by spring 2021.

The study found that the total area of the ALR in B.C. has not changed significantly since it was originally set aside, but there are so-called “hidden threats” to maintaining the inventory.

Data for the project was analyzed from six municipalities in Metro Vancouver - Delta, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Richmond, Surrey and the Township of Langley.

In all six municipalities during that period, there were approximately 422 approved applications for non-farm use or subdivision, with 67 (16 per cent) of those successful applications in Delta.

Of the successful applications in Delta, 49 were for non-farm use and 18 for subdivision.

In non-farm use applications, those for public benefit including transportation, utility and recreation represented the majority of land removed each year.

Many hectares had been removed in Delta for the construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road but, compared to the other communities in the study, Delta has been the most successful in retaining ALR land over the past 20 years.

The next steps will be combining the data of all six municipalities to see possible trends, the committee was told.

Meanwhile, the city will be undertaking a new plan for Delta’s agriculture industry.

The city is planning to hire a consultant with planning and agricultural knowledge to work on an update of the 2011 Delta Agricultural Plan. The request for proposal will likely go out in early 2021.

Having an overarching goal of ensuring the long-term viability of agriculture in Delta, the 2011 plan primarily focused on land designated as agriculture in the Official Community Plan as well as properties within the ALR.