05/02/2012 04:09
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel claims building plans would be hazardous to landscape in the area.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) is vehemently opposing a plan to construct a large hotel and commercial center on Eilat’s southern Almog Beach, claiming that such a project would be hazardous to the landscape there.

The plan – which includes a 10-story, 160- room hotel as well as a commercial shopping center on a 1.2-hectare (0.8-acre) plot – is on the table of the Southern District Committee for Planning and Building, which will be receiving public objections to the project up until June 1.

Among SPNI’s main objections is that the leisure complex would be located on Eilat’s southern coast, right behind the Coral World – Underwater Observatory Marine Park and just over 100 meters from the shore. The developers would be building eight additional stories on top of an already existing but abandoned two-story building, SPNI said.

Construction regulations for the area only technically permit building up to two stories, according to the organization. However, in order to promote the plan, the National Council for Planning and Building amended Clause 13 in the National Master Plan for the Coasts of Eilat, which would allow the developers’ additional building requests, SPNI said.

“This damage will be fully exposed each year to hundreds of thousands of visitors and tourists at the Underwater Observatory,” a statement from SPNI said. “Approval of the plan would create a precedent for hotel and commercial building on the southern coast, and it is in clear contradiction to the policies established in Clause 13.”

One of the goals of the National Master Plan, approved several years ago, was to reduce development on the southern shores of Eilat and preserve the coast as an open, natural area. To ensure that development does occur in the city, however, the plan designates the northern portion of the bay as an area for hotel construction, according to SPNI.

“Eilat’s beaches are a national asset, and it is fitting that we treat them this way,” the organization said. “Approval of the plan will let more development infiltrate the southern shore, and a 10-story hotel in this natural, coastal environment will be a landscape hazard.”

The organization believes that “hotel development must be concentrated in the northern part of the city, leaving the southern coasts as natural as possible.”