Cultural planning is a “place-based” approach to planning and development that’s undertaken by a local governing authority, such as a municipality.

The cultural planning process begins with identifying and mapping a community's cultural resources, then proceeds to developing a plan for managing those resources. Most importantly, the process outlines how cultural resources will be integrated across local government planning and decision making, to achieve the community’s goals.

Once the plan is written and approved by council, it is applied as part of the ongoing municipal planning process.

The identification of cultural resources is an early step in the development of a cultural plan. Each region or municipality identifies different tangible and intangible assets as resources for its planning process.

The process identifies how culture can support four essential pillars of sustainability:

  • economic prosperity
  • social equity
  • environmental responsibility
  • cultural vitality

Cultural planning and land use planning

Cultural planning and land use planning share common objectives, including building healthy communities and contributing to long-term economic prosperity. In fact, one of the ways the province directs municipalities to support long-term economic prosperity is by "encouraging a sense of place, by promoting well-designed built form and cultural planning, and by conserving features that help define character …” (section 1.7.1e of the Provincial Policy Statement 2020, under the Planning Act).

There are 77 municipalities in Ontario with approved cultural plans.

To provide an update on your community, please contact a regional advisor.


While no one model is suitable for all cultural planning, the process generally has five important and distinct phases. Broad community engagement and endorsement is key to its success.

Phase one: start-up

  • Confirm goals and priorities.
  • Secure municipal approval to undertake cultural planning.
  • Convene municipal staff working group/steering committee for the plan.

Phase two: identify where we are

  • Planning context: determine the community's existing plans and priorities.
  • Cultural mapping: identify the community's cultural resources.
  • Cultural assessment: analyse the cultural resources' strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; determine how to connect them to the planning context.

Phase three: determine where we want to be

  • Define desired shared future to establish an overall vision and strategic direction through consultation.
  • Consult and engage with municipal leaders and staff.
  • Undertake broad community engagement with all relevant stakeholders. This might include cultural organizations and businesses, other businesses, academic and community leaders, and community residents.

Phase four: determine how we get there

  • Draft a cultural plan that outlines the vision, roles, partnerships, strategies and actions. The plan should include:
    • a strategy to strengthen cultural resource management
    • a cultural administration and governance model, such as a culture department or cultural roundtable
    • an outline of a monitoring and evaluation plan
  • Seek municipal governing authority approval to adopt the cultural plan.

Phase five: determine how culture becomes part of our everyday business

  • Ensure that culture is integrated in all facets of local planning and decision making (such as official plans, land use, economic development strategies, tourism strategies and integrated community sustainability plans) by adopting a cultural lens to all government decision making.
  • Ensure that cultural mapping and cultural plans are updated on an ongoing basis.

Resources and Tools