Official Community Plan (OCP)




Blueprint for a Healthy Community

The Local Government Act authorizes the development of Official Community Plans (OCPs) in BC (Sections 875-879). An official community plan is a local government bylaw that provides objectives and policies to guide decisions on planning and land use management within the area covered by the plan. OCPs are significant because, after their adoption, all bylaws and works undertaken by a Council or Board must be consistent with the plan. Every OCP will be slightly different but each will address core aspects of a community such as:

  • Proposed land use and density;
  • Transportation, water and wastewater infrastructure;
  • Environmentally sensitive areas, parks and open space;
  • Housing needs and policies;
  • Public facilities, including schools, health care, etc.
  • Neighbourhood character;
  • Social policies;
  • Economic development;
  • Targets, policies and actions for the reduction of GHG emissions.  
  • The regulation of development
  • Building and landscape design guidelines

In a small community, an OCP will typically have more information and play a more central role in governance with policies, regulations and guidelines, including extensive detail on many issues.

For a larger community, an OCP will more often be an overarching, vision and policy document that is accompanied by a wide range of policy, plans and regulatory documents that cover each issue in more detail.

Tackling Climate Change through an OCP

An Official Community Plan (OCP) is possibly the most important plan in a community for reducing emissions. It establishes:

  • Key policy goals for a community, including climate goals and targets;
  • Land use patterns throughout the community that will shape how complete any neighbourhood is;
  • The transportation pattern of a community that will influence whether people walk, cycle and take transit or drive their car – and associated emissions implications;
  • Housing types available in each neighbourhood that will affect transportation options and quality of life;
  • Commercial and industrial development that is the foundation of a community’s economy and influences where jobs are located throughout a community;
  • The policy foundation for infrastructure planning that will determine how efficient and sustainable water, waste-water and energy systems are, based on the OCP’s land use patterns;
  • A key focus point for community engagement and education where climate and community issues can be linked and discussed;
  • Community-wide GHG reduction targets, policies and actions to help mitigate the impacts of climate change;
  • The network of greenways, vegetation and park spaces that influence local neighbourhood lifestyles, vegetation to reduce the heat island effect, and promote walking and cycling;
  • Design objectives and guidelines for buildings and landscape proposed within prescribed Development Permit Areas. These can include objectives and requirements for energy efficiency and GHG reductions;
  • Development information requirements including information required regarding energy efficiency, GHG emissions for a proposed project;
  • Incentives that the municipality may offer to encourage GHG emissions reductions including policies for density bonusing; and
  • Many other aspects of a community, including the leadership role a local government will play in its own operations around fleet management or premium efficiency building targets.

OCPs are typically updated every 5 to10 years, but their long-term vision means they set a course for many decades.

Local Government (Green Communities) Statutes Amendment Act (Bill 27)

The Green Communities legislation (Bill 27, 2008), which amended the Local Government Act and Vancouver Charter, introduced changes that enable local governmentsto  address climate action in their communities. Among these changes is a requirement for local governments to have targets, policies and actions to reduce GHG emissions in their Official Community Plans by May 31, 2010, and in Regional Growth Strategies, for those regional districts by May 31, 2011. Bill 27 also allows for Development Permit Areas that promote energy and water conservation, and reduce greenhouse gases at the single family dwelling level.

Many local governments have already begun to meet this challenge through:

1. Developing the Strategic Framework 
2. Land Use and Transportation  
3. Form, Function and Siting of Buildings 
4. Waste and Water: 5 R’s ‐ Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover and Residuals Management 
5. Retaining and Enhancing the Natural Environment
Find guides and more information resources about Bill 27 here.

Community Examples

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