Gilo Construction 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
The Jerusalem Municipality slammed a decision by the Interior Ministry to add a
clause to the ministry’s master plan for Jerusalem that would allow construction
in Jerusalem’s southern and western hills in a currently undeveloped area known
as the White Ridge.
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The idea for construction is left over from the
Safdie Plan, a controversial plan designed by architect Moshe Safdie that
advocated for building tens of thousands of homes spread out over Jerusalem’s
Environmental organizations, including the Society for the
Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), fought vehemently against the plan. The
municipality decided it would be more useful for the city to try to increase the
density of existing neighborhoods and improve services within Jerusalem, rather
than expanding into the hills. After more than 16,000 public objections were
filed to the plan, the Safdie plan was rejected by the National Planning and
Building Committee in 2007.
On Tuesday, the National Planning and
Building Committee will approve a master plan for Jerusalem that designates
land-use for the regions in and around the city. On September 27, the Interior
Ministry’s Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved a measure
that classified the White Ridge area, south of the city, next to Gilo, as a
location that could eventually be zoned for housing.
While there are no
plans currently in the works for the area, it means future building projects
could be approved in a much easier process, rather than forcing a change in the
entire master plan of the city.
City officials called the approval
“totally contrary to the current urban planning policy for strengthening and
developing Jerusalem,” and accused the Interior Ministry of infringing on its
authority to make its own decisions.
“What they’re doing is not only
undermining national planning council’s decision to accept recommendation by
putting in things they said should definitely not be there, worse than that,
they’re undermining the declared policy of city of Jerusalem,” said Deputy Mayor
Naomi Tsur who holds the environmental and planning portfolios.
former head of the Jerusalem branch of SPNI, worked to cancel the Safdie plan
four years ago with SPNI. She called it “urban suicide” for Jerusalem to try to
expand beyond its current borders without improving the city center.
sent a letter to the National Building and Planning Committee ahead of Tuesday’s
meeting and called for the immediate cancellation of the clause. The city’s
legal department said the reclassification of White Ridge was illegal, because
it represented a significant change to the master plan without proper
consultation of the municipality.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Efrat
Orbach dismissed the claims as “a lot of noise,” and stressed the change to the
master plan did not mean building would start anytime soon, if at
“In the future it might be possible to build there, and they decided
to classify it such that they could build with limits in keeping with the
environment,” said Orbach.
The White Ridge area is currently the site of
Emek Refaim Park, part of the new Jerusalem Park system that creates a green
ring around the city with more than 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of protected
parklands. Four different parks at the city’s perimeter will be linked by a 42
km. bicycle path and hiking routes. Additionally, an extreme sport center, horse
riding center, water park, outdoor education center, sport fields, picnic areas,
and arboretum will be created in the park system, a NIS 250 million endeavor
funded by the Jerusalem Municipality, Prime Minister’s Office, Jerusalem
Development Authority, and Ministry of Environmental Protection.
park’s completion depends on the completion of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem high speed
train, which is currently under construction, but 12 km. of the bike path are
already paved and additional infrastructure work is underway.