Area in heavily congested central region will be left as green lung for the public, even though it will remain open land rather than nature reserve.
Zafrir Rinat Nov 13, 2016

The National Planning and Building Council decided last week to advance a plan to turn a large area of central Israel’s Sharon Plain into a recreation space and green lung for the entire region.

The area is located between the communities of Kadima-Tzoran and the coastal city of Netanya.

In an attempt to preserve some open spaces in central Israel, in the face of accelerated development, the planning council has defined certain areas as metropolitan recreation areas. These will not be nature reserves, but will have restrictions on development to ensure that they remain unbuilt on.

For many years, the Israel Land Authority has not moved ahead on construction plans for the area, known as the Ilanot Metropolitan Recreation Area, which covers 5,300 dunams (1,310 acres). Nevertheless, the planning council decided last week to reconfirm its zoning because of the great importance of the idea and because of the possibility of encroaching construction from surrounding locales.

The plan allows for construction on 15 percent of the land in areas near existing communities, but the rest is to remain as open space. Some of the area (325 dunams) will be used as a cemetery, while other land will go for the expansion of roads.

The Ilanot Forest, which is part of the area, will be preserved, as well an area around the Ilanot Stream. This stream is to become a recreational focus.

The plan also proposes preserving agricultural areas, but making them accessible to the public by developing hiking and cycling trails.

It is still unclear how much of the area will remain unbuilt, as the council’s decision leaves room for flexibility. The plan will now be discussed in the regional planning and building committee, before returning to the national council for final approval.

Local authorities may seek changes to the plan so they can move ahead on development for their towns and cities. The Netanya municipality has already raised a number of demands, including the allocation of land for a cement factory near the cemetery, and the construction of a golf course.

Other metropolitan recreational areas are also in the planning stages near Rehovot and Nes Tziona.
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