Tel Be’er Sheva
Tel Be’er Sheva. The area is destined to become a park as part of the plan to maintain open space. Photo by Alberto Denkberg
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Israel has enough land authorized for construction to meet demand through 2030, and there is no need to designate additional land for construction, an Interior Ministry team concluded.

Therefore, green spaces should be safe, and new parks might be established over the next few years, the team wrote.

This conclusion comes from a report by a team reviewing the implementation of Tama 35, a national master plan that seeks to concentrate construction within built-up areas.

In their report, the team contends that many potential projects aren't being built because developers want to wait for the land's value to increase.

The Interior Ministry found that the national planning policies of the past several years have been successful. The ministry has achieved its goal of concentrating new construction within municipalities, and generally has avoided authorizing building in open spaces.

Later this week, the team's findings will be presented to a sub-committee of the national planning and construction council.

The team, led by planners Moti Kaplan, Yaron Turel and Ari Cohen, analyzed planning trends in Israel between 1998 and 2007, and used them to forecast construction needs for the next decade or two. The team found that another 80 square kilometers of land were built on between 1998 and 2007, mostly within or alongside cities.

There are currently 410 square kilometers of unused land authorized for construction. The team estimates that by 2020, 30 percent of this land will have been utilized. Not all 410 kilometers can actually be used, due to topographical problems or other issues, the team notes.

The team concludes that enough land has been designated to meet construction needs through 2030 at least.

Contrary to what the Prime Minister's Office said recently, construction is not being impeded by red tape, but rather because companies are choosing not to build, and instead are holding on to the land until real estate prices increase, the team said.

Another obstacle to construction involves disputes between government ministries that delay infrastructure projects such as sewer systems or roads. Residential projects need this infrastructure in order to proceed.

Tama 35 determined that most new construction in Israel should be concentrated within 43 urban sites that cover 9% of the country's area, or 2 million dunams.

Tama 35 divides the country into three main blocs: built-up land; land designated for construction; and designated open space, including farmland, parks and tourism sites. About 90% of the country's population should live in urban areas, mostly in the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beer Sheva metropolitan areas, it states.

Tama 35 set standards for population density levels in all of Israel's towns and cities. The team found that expanding construction within urban areas would not cause significant damage to outlying agricultural lands.

This finding contradicts regional councils' claims that urban areas could encroach on agricultural lands, damaging farm enterprises and the quality of life in rural communities.

Many cities have managed concentrate construction beyond what plans had called for, partly by promoting high-rises. The team recommended further concentrating construction within certain parts of cities. Open spaces not utilized for construction can be used as parks, among other things, which would improve the quality of life and draw more people into cities, the team wrote. "To the extent possible, these lands should remain open spaces, available for agricultural and recreational use. These areas are being kept open in order to improve city residents' welfare, and this goal should guide planning decisions," the team stated.

In keeping with this, large urban parks are being planned, the largest one being Ariel Sharon park in South Tel Aviv. Another large park is planned for Haifa, too, near the Kishon river, and one is also slated for southern Be'er Sheva.

In southern Jerusalem, land in the Ela Valley has been protected to make a park, and the Jerusalem municipality is also promoting two planned parks to the city's west.

The team found that not all planning goals have been met. The most conspicuous failures are in the periphery, and in Arab and Druze towns and villages.

In peripheral towns such as Dimona, Kiryat Shmona and Mitzpe Ramon, there is relatively little demand for apartments, so planners have allowed more sprawl in order to encourage people to move there.

With regard to Arab and Druze towns and villages, planners have advocated concentrated construction in order to utilize limited space. However, this policy has failed, the team concluded: "The intention to keep construction concentrated within limited areas in Druze communities ... has been met with skepticism and a lack of demand," the team wrote.

Furthermore, attempts to sell land and homes within built-up Arab towns and villages have failed, except for in Nazareth, the team said. Therefore, the team members recommend easing restrictions limiting construction to built-up areas within Arab and Druze communities.