State Scraps Disputed Road Near Sharon Creek

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel has won a major victory in its bid to protect the area of the Poleg stream: The National Planning and Building Committee voted to cancel a plan to build a road near the stream, located in the Sharon region, and instead ordered that the new route be constructed further south, near the northern outskirts of Ra'anana.

But since this ruling requires changes in the master plan, the cabinet will need to approve it - which gives the Transportation Ministry an opportunity to overturn the committee's decision. The ministry opposed the decision at the panel's meeting yesterday.

The road, Route 551, was supposed to link the Coastal Highway to both Route 4 (the old Tel Aviv-Haifa highway ) and the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6 ). However, following protests from environmentalists and a review of the road's benefits, the road planning administration decided to propose canceling it altogether.

According to the administration proposal approved yesterday, Route 551 is "impractical from a transportation standpoint, environmentally deficient, and does not fit into the overall approach to north-south and east-west roads in the Tel Aviv and central district."

Therefore, the administration advised replacing it with a new road farther south, dubbed Route 541. This route would offer better access to a resort area set to be built north of Ra'anana, it said, and would also conserve the landscape and natural environment of the Poleg stream. Unlike Route 551, Route 541 would not cut deep into the Poleg area.

The new route is slated to link up with the Ayalon Freeway (Route 20 ), which is due to be extended to Shefayam and Rishpon. In the future, the road will link up with the Coastal Highway as well.

Both SPNI and the Nature and Parks Authority defined the Poleg stream area as one of the highest-priority nature conservation areas in central Israel. The area contains not only the stream, but also several nature reserves and agricultural lands. It is home to many rare plant species and a popular destination for walks.

The two groups have waged battles against a number of plans for the area, including another road near the seashore that the Netanya municipality had planned, the establishment of a system of water reservoirs and various plans to change the stream's drainage.