Building Council Rejects Plan to Let J'lem Expand Westward

Plan includes two extensive building plans, one in Mitzpeh Naftoah near Ramot neighborhood, one near Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.

The National Planning and Building Council has rejected a plan to enable development of an area west of Jerusalem known as White Ridge.

On Tuesday, the council discussed the Jerusalem district's master plan, which sets planning guidelines for the coming decade in the area between Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh. The master plan includes two extensive building plans in Jerusalem: one in Mitzpeh Naftoah near the Ramot neighborhood, and one near Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. It also provides for developing parks around the city.

As reported in Haaretz last week, a subcommittee of the national council had approved a change in the master plan. Under this change, requested by the Interior Ministry's planning administration, urban development would also have been allowed in the area of White Ridge, which at present is an open green area.

But environmental organizations sounded the alarm, claiming that this amounted to bringing back the controversial Safdie plan. That plan, which was shelved five years ago, proposed expanding Jerusalem westward, at the expense of White Ridge and Mount Heret.

After the subcommittee approved the change, the Jerusalem municipality and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel both submitted objections to it. In a letter to the council, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur said the municipality's declared policy is to work to strengthen existing neighborhoods, not to expand the city's boundaries. "Strengthening Jerusalem would have been impossible without canceling the Safdie plan, a move that required us to confront the challenges of developing existing neighborhoods," she wrote.

And the national council listened: On Tuesday, it approved the master plan without the White Ridge development.