Group claims construction of planned residential neighborhood on cliffs of Ramon Crater would be environmentally destructive.

Claiming that the construction of a planned residential neighborhood on the cliffs of the Ramon Crater would be environmentally destructive, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel filed an objection to the project on Monday to the Southern District Committee for Planning and Building.

The plans for the project, which SPNI said is being promoted by the Construction and Housing Ministry, have only recently been deposited in the hands of the committee, which is collecting objections to the plans through the end of September.

The future Gamal residential neighborhood on the cliffs of the Ramon Crater could cause severe and irreversible damage to a landscape that has international importance, the organization argued.

“Promotion of the program is contrary to planning needs and would cause damage to one of the treasures of nature and a unique landscape with which Israel is blessed, and would therefore harm the character of the community,” the SPNI petition said.

This program, the petition explained, is the result of plans outlined during the 1990s, when the mass immigration from the Soviet Union occurred and an urgent need for new residential neighborhoods arose.

“Despite the passage of time and changes in planning needs, the injurious program remains,” the SPNI report continued.

The petition also referred to State Comptroller’s Report 60-aleph, which states that the program is contrary to government decisions regarding the concentration of urban planning schemes, and that the program is incompatible with current planning trends.

“The plan would cause irreparable damage to natural landmarks of utmost importance and to the continuity of the landscape, which is one of the most distinctively scenic features of Mitzpe Ramon,” the SPNI petition said.

The edge of the crater, the organization explained, must be considered the same way as would be the seashore. Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists come to see the site due to its uniqueness, SPNI added.

“[The plan] in no way benefits the settlement and it does not take into account trends in planning and alternatives available,” the petition said. “This must be rejected.”

In response, the Construction and Housing Ministry stressed that the plans for the neighborhood were formulated in consultation with all of the relevant bodies regarding the protection of nature.

“We do not accept the claim in the objection,” the ministry said in a statement. “The objection will be discussed in a professional committee of the Interior Ministry.”