Court Orders Planners to Reconsider Building Near Achziv Beach

Judge rules that plan approved 20 years ago must reflect current environmental policy

Ilan Asayag

A precedent-setting verdict by the Haifa District Court has ordered the Nahariya Planning and Building Committee to reexamine construction plans approved years ago for the area of the Achziv Beach.

The verdict comes after many years of work by environmental groups and Knesset members to change the law regarding protection of beaches and bring it up to date in terms of current standards of environmental protection.

The verdict was handed down by Judge Ron Sokol in an appeal by the Hadera Paper Company against approval given by the Nahariya Planning and Building Committee for residential and hotel construction on the beach north of the city near Achziv National Park. The Hadera Paper Company is concerned that construction at the site will impede its nearby activities. According to the company, when the plan was originally approved 20 years ago it was to have been implemented within 10 years and because it was not, the plan should be annulled.

The court consented that the Union for Environmental Defense join the appeal as a friend of the court. The environmental group and Hadera Paper then claimed together that changes in recent years in planning policies for beach areas now restrict construction in such areas.

Sokol wrote that the fact that the plan was not implemented within 10 years did not mean it should be completely annulled. However, he instructed that it should be revisited “in a manner consistent with current needs and according to up-to-date planning concepts as well as regional and national master plans.”

The judge noted that both the local and the district planning committees had held a further meeting about the plans ahead of their final approval, but that it was unclear what issues had come up at that time and to what extent the plan conformed to changes in the approach to construction in beach areas. The judge said the single meeting the district committee had held had not gone deeply enough into the matter. He ordered that following its examination of the plans, the local planning committee publish a detailed report of its findings.

The director general of the Union for Environmental Defense, Amit Bracha, said: “This is a historic decision, which conveys a clear message to the government regarding the urgency of approving an amendment to the law on protection of the beach environment.” Bracha also said that construction based on old, irrelevant plans was widespread. “It is inconceivable that today, when the importance of protecting nature’s resources is recognized, the planning institutions allow archaic and anti-environmental plans to go forward.”

Next month the Ministerial Committee on Legislation is to discuss an amendment to the law on protection of the beach environment.