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2006 Residential Development

City of Surrey

East Clayton Neighbourhood Concept Plan

Population: 347,825

The 250-hectare neighbourhood of East Clayton in Surrey was designated as "urban" in 1996, setting the stage for an unprecedplan to increase residential density, promote social cohesion and maximize afford-ability and walkability. Different housing zones were created, each with guidelines on lot configurations, widths and setbacks, allowing developers to choose the housing mix. A "special residential" category was included to allow small-scale businesses to be combined with residential units. Sixty percent of the lots have rear-lane access for cars. This allows property owners to build secondary units at the rear. Seventy-five percent of East Clayton is already developed or under construction. Housing density, which is expected to gradually increase over time, is already double that of other urban areas of the city.


The East Clayton Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) covers about 250 hectares of land on the eastern border of Surrey, one of the fastest-growing municipalities within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD). Before redevelopment, East Clayton was sparsely populated. Fewer than 500 people lived in the district, and low-density suburban and semi-rural residential lots and agricultural land dominated the area.

In 1996, Surrey adopted a new Official Community Plan that designated East Clayton as "urban." This designation meant that, with the necessary infrastructure, the area could support a density of at least 15 units per hectare. In early 1999, the City completed a general land-use plan for the entire Clayton area that provided a policy framework for development of more detailed neighbourhood concept plans. The East Clayton NCP set the stage for developing a sustainable community and reducing the impact of development on neighbouring farmland and fish habitats.

"East Clayton drains into agricultural areas and the farming community was concerned about the effects of urban runoff," explains Judy McLeod, the City's Manager of Long-Range Planning and Policy Development. "So our original impetus for the project was to manage stormwater in a sustainable way."

As the project developed, the goal was broadened to create a complete, mixed-use community that would encourage social cohesion, local economic opportunities and environmental stewardship.


  • Other areas in Surrey have densities of approximately 15 to 20 units per hectare (6 to 8 units per acre), while net density in East Clayton is approximately 40 units per hectare (16 units per acre).
  • Housing diversity has been achieved, with most current housing options falling in the 250 to 320 m2 range. These homes allow the option to add suites and coach houses, thus offering more options for affordable housing and an increase in density over time.
  • Some developers are now actively marketing homes as "sustainable." "The development community took a risk and there's been a huge market uptake that has led to similar housing forms. They are now becoming quite common in Surrey," notes Ms. McLeod.
  • Creating new housing zones has given the City the legislative tools to proceed in other neighbourhood redevelopment projects.

Lessons Learned

  • KEEP CITY COUNCIL INFORMED. Ms. McLeod reports that Council was very supportive and continues to be so. "If there are suggestions on things to change, or if we're inconsistent with our principles, they will let us know."
  • INVOLVE THE MEDIA. The project had media attention from the very beginning. "Media articles and television spots did a lot to carry the project and caught the eye of both the public and Council," Ms. Whelen reports.
  • INVOLVE THE DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY. Ms. Whelen admits that the City did not involve the development community as early as it should have. "We should have brought all the stakeholders in from the very beginning because we were dealing with new concepts and, as a result, it took longer." But the East Clayton process has spurred the City to change how it handles such processes in the future.
  • DON'T REINVENT THE WHEEL. Although East Clayton was a "madein-Surrey" solution, Ms. McLeod and Ms. Whelen caution municipalities who may be undertaking a similar initiative to look to the experiences of other communities for ideas and to learn from their mistakes.
  • BUILD ON YOUR EXPERIENCES. In East Clayton, fewer trees were retained than originally desired. "When you develop for higher density, you can't always keep the existing trees," says Ms. Whelen. The next developments will include tree inventories early in the planning process.

Partners and Collaboration


  • City of Surrey departments, including Planning, Parks and Engineering


  • University of British Columbia, Landscape and Liveable Environments
  • Pacific Resources Centre
  • Clayton Citizens' Advisory Committee
  • Environment Canada
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • B.C. ministries of Environment, Agriculture, Municipal Affairs, and Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services
  • Surrey School District
  • TransLink
  • ACT program
  • Real Estate Foundation of B.C.
  • Greater Vancouver Regional District
Page Updated: 21/12/2015