Activists claim the master plan to build 10,000 homes at Pi Glilot will harm several species of unique plants
Zafrir Rinat | Jan. 16, 2020

A state agency is trying to fast-track a major construction plan for the Pi Glilot Junction that environmental groups say will harm the environment.

The Israel Lands Authority wants that plan approved by a special national committee on residential construction. But the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel says this is intended to circumvent existing planning procedures.

Last year, the Tel Aviv regional planning committee held hearings on a master plan for the Pi Glilot area that involved building 10,000 apartments there. After this plan is approved, detailed construction plans would still have to be approved before building could begin.

SPNI and environmental activists from nearby communities sought to introduce changes into the master plan that would protect nature, including several species of unique flora, in the area’s southeastern section. In interim decisions, the regional planning committee agreed.

Three weeks ago, for instance, the committee said the ILA’s plan doesn’t adequately protect nature, and that no construction should be allowed in the southeast section. It also said the plan doesn’t provide proper drainage solutions that would prevent flooding during heavy rains.

But last week, the activists were stunned to discover that the ILA had asked the Finance Ministry’s planning administration to fast-track the plan through the national committee on residential construction. The ILA’s request related to only 6,600 apartments, two-thirds of the original plan. But it didn’t include the changes decided on by the regional committee.

SPNI therefore urged the planning administration’s director general, Dalit Zilber, to reject the request, saying it was meant to circumvent the regional committee’s decisions.

“You shouldn’t let a precedent be set that could undermine the various planning and building committees’ authority,” it wrote, charging that the ILA was making “cynical use” of the national committee to “avoid implementing the regional committee’s decisions.”

It also noted that the recent heavy rains, which caused flooding throughout Israel, underscored the importance of including proper drainage in any plan. Therefore, it said, the regional committee’s demand that this problem be solved must be upheld.

The ILA said SPNI’s claims “aren’t based on fact. The authority’s plan preserves nature and provides a solution to drainage problems.”

Moreover, it said, the plan it submitted to the Finance Ministry isn’t meant to replace the master plan. Rather, it’s a detailed construction plan for a portion of the area that it seeks to fast-track so that building can start as soon as the master plan is approved, which is likely to happen soon.