The Fight to Preserve Israel’s Beaches Washes Up to Shore

The National Council for Planning and Building rules against the construction of a holiday village near Nahsholim.

Ofer Vaknin

Another initiative to build a beach resort on the Mediterranean coast ended in failure after an appeals committee of the National Planning and Building Council on Monday upheld a regional zoning committee’s decision not to approve the construction of a resort adjacent to Kibbutz Nahsholim, south of Haifa.

Two weeks ago the Central District Planning and Building Committee rejected plans to build a similar resort on Palmahim Beach, south of Tel Aviv.

The Haifa District Planning and Building Committee rejected the Nahsholim project in 2012. The Israel Lands Authority, together with the tourism and the housing and construction ministries, appealed the decision.

The village was supposed to include 500 rooms, over an area of 101 dunams (25 acres). The site is 300 meters from Dor Beach, an important habitat for plants and animals.

In making its decision the district zoning board relied, in part, on the opposition to the plan voiced by the Environmental Protection Ministry.

The district committee said that because of the environmental and landscape importance of the area, it should be preserved as part of the open strip of landscape of the Carmel coast. The committee also noted that there were alternatives to building vacation homes in the area.

The Hof Hacarmel Regional Council, which at first supported the plan, changed its opinion and opposed it because of the importance it attributed to preserving a wide strip of landscape near the beach.

The appellants argued that the resort project would not cause environmental damage and would actually make the area accessible to the public.

Among other things they said the resort would be adjacent to the kibbutz and would not affect the swath of undeveloped land.

They also maintained that the decision related to an area that is outside the area protected by a coastal protection line and prohibiting building within 300 meters from the waterline. They further argued that the available accommodations in the area did not meet the demand for affordable vacation housing .

The appellants argued that the Nahsholim site was suited for the resort project because it is not on the coastal strip itself and is part of an already existing built-up area.

The Environmental Protection Ministry, in its response to the appeal, argued that a project to expand and upgrade two existing resorts in the Nahsholim area that is being advanced will add to the tourism facilities available in the vicinity of the site.

The appeals committee said in its decision that the district committee was correct in claiming that the area has a direct link to the beach, even if it is not included in the area mandated by the coastal protection law. The committee felt that building the holiday village would damage the landscape in the area, and also accepted the view of the district committee that other sites in the area could be used for building guest units.

At the conclusion of its ruling the appeals committee wrote: “We hope that the area of the [holiday village] plan will be developed for the benefit of the general public, as part of the immediate environment of the beach and the archaeological national park at Tel Dor. In that way it will be possible to enjoy an open landscape and a tourist site that combines all of these. In a crowded country such as ours that is a great blessing. In any case, the land remains in place, and if God forbid, in the distant future, it turns out that there is no choice but to dust off the plan and once again to discuss building a holiday village at the site, that will be done.”

As a result of the appeals committee decision, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection Ofir Akunis said: “This is a clear victory for all of Israel’s inhabitants, who will benefit from the open beach. We have removed the threat from one of the most beautiful and unique beaches in Israel.”

Carmel Sela, head of the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council, said in response: “I welcome the rejection of the plan. We believe that the coastal strip, which abounds with values of nature, landscape and heritage, should be preserved, and along with our residents we believe that the area should be treated with sensitivity and out of a world view that encourages preservation.”

In the wake of the decision of the appeals committee, MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), the chairman of the Knesset social-environmental caucus, called for the approval of a legal amendment he is proposing that would enable the reopening of deliberations on plans to build along the coastline that were approved many years ago and were not implemented. This, in the light of the trend of avoiding construction adjacent to the coast.