Israeli Environmental Activists, Herzliya Locals Attempting to Stop Major Residential Project

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The abandoned military industrial site near Apollonia National Park.
The abandoned military industrial site near Apollonia National Park.Credit: Nir Keidar

Herzliya residents and environmentalists have asked a court to overturn a plan for large-scale residential construction near the Apollonia National Park because the site is already severely polluted.

The petition, filed in Tel Aviv District Court, argues that the planning committee approved the new housing without studying the potential impact on residents of the existing severe pollution at the site. It also argues that the plan provides no transportation solutions for the new development, an omission that will severely harm residents of the nearby Nof Yam neighborhood.

Two months ago, the special planning committee in charge of developing new housing in high-priority areas approved a plan to build 2,687 new apartments near Apollonia, northwest of Herzliya. The plan also calls for hotels and commercial areas.

But from 1950 to 1997, the state-owned Israel Military Industries operated a factory on part of the land in question that severely polluted the land and groundwater. This pollution – which includes dangerous explosives – has never been cleaned up.

For the past several years, the Adam Teva V’Din environmental organization has waged a legal battle against the state over its failure to clean up the pollution. As a result of this battle, the state promised the High Court of Justice that it would clean up the site within three years after it finished the necessary studies.

These studies were supposed to be done by August. But according to the petition filed against the Apollonia plan, the studies never took place. All the state has done, the petition said, is fence off the area and do a few partial, preliminary tests of the pollution.

An environmental impact study submitted to the planning committee recommended that studies of the pollution be completed before the development plan was approved. The Environmental Protection Ministry also told the panel it worried about approving new housing before the pollution was cleaned up. But the committee ignored these concerns and approved the plan.

“The plan allows large-scale construction, machine and vehicle traffic and even population of the apartments, on or adjacent to land that’s known to be polluted,” the petition said. “And all this without completing surveys of where the pollution is located, even though the planning and construction must take this into account.”

The petition also complained that the project was approved before planning was completed for the necessary transportation solutions. In effect, this means the apartments could be finished and occupied even before such solutions are in place.

During hearings on the project, planning committee members said the new housing was important precisely because of the pollution, as it would provide an economic incentive to clean up the site. The state adopted a similar approach during discussions of another former IMI site in Ramat Sharon: The money earned by selling the land for residential housing, it argued, would finance the necessary but expensive clean-up operation.

The Finance Ministry, which is responsible for the planning committee, has not yet responded to the petition.

The beach at Apollonia National Park.Credit: Dror Ezra

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