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The construction of a 275-unit residential complex near the Ashdod marina came closer to becoming a reality last week after the National Planning and Building Council's appeals board rejected an appeal by environmental groups.

The Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva V'Din ), together with the Public Forum for the Quality of the Environment in Ashdod say the project will infringe on the public's right to free access to the coastline and constitutes a transfer of a precious public resource into private hands.

Planning authorities say the project will actually improve public access to the area.

The 276-dunam (about 70-acre ) parcel earmarked for the project was previously zoned for commercial and office space.

The appeal was filed after both the local and the southern regional planning and building committees approved the plan. In it, the petitioners argued that the addition of such a large number of apartments to the vicinity of the marina, which is slated to become a tourism and entertainment complex for the wider public, will change the character of the site and thwart the main aim of the plan for the marina.

Marina nightlife

The petitioners further claimed that noise from the entertainment district would disturb the apartment residents, jeopardizing the nightlife envisioned for the marina.

Another argument raised in the appeal was that in weighing their decision the planning bodies gave greater weight to the economic needs of the developer, Blue Marina, than to public planning considerations.

In their appeal, IUED and the Ashdod forum noted that the company had argued that it should be allowed to build the residential complex in wake of the slump in demand for commercial and office space, as a result of which they would not be able to develop the marina's public areas as originally planned.

In its response to the appeal, the Southern District Planning and Building Committee argued that the access roads and the beach development included in the plan would increase - not reduce - public access to the shore, and that removing the office-space component from the marina complex would only add to its attraction as a tourism and entertainment district.

In a response, the IUED said that it will consider other ways to stop the plan.