Beach Protection Panel Reprieved, Other Demands Nixed

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday decided not to disband the beach environment protection committee as part of proposed reforms to the planning and building law, after Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan voiced his opposition.

But at last night's discussion of the changes by the Ministerial Comittee for Legislation, Netanyahu rejected other demands by Erdan's ministry.

Erdan (Likud) and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beiteinu), opposed a number of other components in the reform, while Shas ministers Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias supported them.

Erdan said the beach committee had proved a very effective tool to protect the country's beaches. To disband it, Erdan said, would spell the end of the beaches as a resource in the public domain.

Erdan was unable to persuade the other ministers not to cancel a regional master plan that would limit the authority of the regional planning and building councils. Erdan told the ministers that if these councils had more powers, it would be impossible to maintain the proper balance between development and protection of the environment.

Erdan also did not manage to dissuade the ministers from approving the replacement of environmental impact advisers to the Planning and Building Council from his ministry with external advisers.

Erdan warned that the decision could create a situation whereby advisers to the council on the environmental impact of projects might have a vested interest in the outcome of planning.

One reform Erdan proposed that was accepted was for one of the two public representatives on local planning and building councils to be an environmental expert, so as to strengthen oversight of environmental needs during the planning process and to prevent damage to the environment by development.