New master plan removes Betzet Beach’s designation as tourism zone
Zafrir Rinat | Jun. 6, 2019 | 1:54 PM

A planning agency has nixed plans to build a holiday village on a Galilee beach, thereby ensuring that Betzet Beach is preserved in its natural state.

In a decision issued on Monday, the northern region’s planning and building committee said the holiday village plan was based on an outdated vision that doesn’t take account of the beach’s environmental and ecological importance.

One day later, the National Planning and Building Council reinforced the committee’s decision by approving a new master plan that removed Betzet’s designation as zoned for tourism.

The plan to build a holiday village on Betzet Beach received initial approval almost 30 years ago, but was never implemented. In recent years, developers have tried to get final approval for the plan, but environmental activists fought the idea, with support from the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Israel Parks and Nature Authority.

The latest effort was made by developer Herzl Tzioni, who submitted a plan earlier this year that proposed using only a single plot of land, on which an abandoned holiday village already sits. He wanted to build one-story wooden bungalows 100 meters from the sea.

The local planning and building committee opposed the idea, in accordance with the Mateh Asher Regional Council’s master plan for its coastal areas. That plan, drafted a few years ago, opposes the holiday village but proposes other locations for tourism development.

Nevertheless, the local committee decided to ask the regional committee’s opinion.

At the regional committee’s hearing this week, committee members noted that Betzet is one of the few places in northern Israel where the sand still stretches inland for hundreds of meters from the waterline. This makes its landscape and ecology special.

Though it has suffered some harm from human activity, Betzet still has a very high concentration of rare flora. It is also an important nesting ground for sea turtles.

The committee also noted that the holiday village contradicts the latest trends in coastal preservation, which hold that building near the coast should be banned almost completely.

“The building rights approved in the old plans don’t comply with today’s standards, so they should be converted into building rights in appropriate locales,” its decision said. “It should be noted that had this plan reached the regional committee’s desk today, it would certainly have been rejected.”

In its decision on Tuesday, the national planning council also cited Betzet’s ecological importance as the reason for canceling its designation as zoned for tourism. But it, too, proposed that other locales in the area be zoned for tourism development.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which helped lead the fight against the holiday village, welcomed both decisions.

“Betzet Beach is one of the most important, unique and beautiful beaches in Israel, both from the standpoint of its landscape and nature and from a public standpoint,” it said in a statement. “This beach should remain a natural, free, open beach with no unnecessary and harmful construction.”