SPNI celebrates Landmark Ruling to Protect Israel’s Green Belts
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), together with other environmental organizations and Israel’s mayors, celebrated a decision on September 9th by the National Planning and Building Council to protect up to 160,000 hectares of open spaces and green belt areas. This decision also protects within the planning system, for the first time, designated "ecological corridors" and expands "scenic areas" of natural beauty which are important to endangered species and nature lovers alike. Coupled with the September 2nd decision to dismiss a plan for fracking in the Elah Valley, this has been one of the most significant weeks for Israel’s environmental movement in recent years.
Planners in the Interior Ministry wanted to change National Master Plan (TAMA) 35 by expanding areas designated for development, potentially allowing construction on up to 8% of Israel’s remaining open spaces including green belt land which stops urban sprawl. The proposal would have focused new construction in Israel's central region, detracting from development in urban centers in Israel's periphery.
The decision reached by the National Planning and Building Council ensured adherence to TAMA 35, approved by Israel’s cabinet in 2005. This means Israel will continue its policy to emphasize development in Israel’s existing cities, curbing urban sprawl, and prioritizing the development of the Negev, the Galilee and Jerusalem. Israel’s mayors in these areas supported SPNI’s campaign to secure Israel's continued investment in existing city centers across the country. TAMA 35, bolstered by this decision, paves the way for sustainable development in Israel over the next 25 years, protecting open spaces and green areas in cities with an emphasis on urban renewal and promoting quality of life throughout Israel.
SPNI’s spokesman said, “There are hundreds of thousands of approved housing units just waiting to be built," referring to the original TAMA 35. "We must work for their immediate realization and not continue initiating more and more plans which will contribute nothing toward the housing shortage, which will not add even one more housing unit and will only undermine citizens’ welfare and quality of life.”
“The decision today is great tidings for the citizens of Israel who will finally enjoy both an expansive supply of housing units at a fair price and green spaces“ said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz. “This achievement … shows how environmental justice is inextricably linked to social justice”
Beer Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich said of the Interior Ministry’s plan “it [would have] severely damaged the Negev, deepened social gaps and created, in fact, two nations.”