New Lower Galilee community shelved for now

National planning and building council sends plans for Ramat Arbel back to government, saying plans need reevaluation.

Ramat Arbel in Lower Galilee 370 (photo credit: Yonatan Darom/SPNI)
Ramat Arbel in Lower Galilee 370
(photo credit: Yonatan Darom/SPNI)
Plans for a new Lower Galilee community are returning to the hands of the government, after the National Council for Planning and Building determined on Tuesday that it needed reevaluation, since more than a decade had passed since the government decision that spawned the idea.
In a 2007 hearing, the council decided to reject the establishment of the proposed community, Ramat Arbel. However, the results of a subsequent court petition required the council to hold another hearing on the issue, which it did on Tuesday, over five years later.
The idea of building Ramat Arbel initially came from the Lower Galilee Regional Council and private developers following a 2002 government decision that spoke of a need to strengthen the Galilee in general and attract new immigrants there, according to the Interior Ministry.
Despite the need to strengthen the region with newcomers, communities in the regional council insisted that they had no land reserves or apartment units available for young families and couples interested in moving there. So the regional council proposed the creation of Ramat Arbel, southeast of the Masad community and Route 65, as a site for the necessary new housing and infrastructure, the ministry said.
Opponents of the plan have particularly stressed their opposition to urban sprawl, and a preference for expanding existing settlements over establishing new ones, the Interior Ministry explained. Environmental groups have also argued that the slated construction site is on sensitive nature spots, such as Arbel National Park, Mount Kotz Nature Reserve and a special point overlooking Lake Kinneret, the ministry added.
The National Council for Planning and Building also stressed that establishing a permanent settlement in this spot would contradict the national master plan for the Kinneret.
Those against the plan have also found that in the past three years, there have been other programs approved that allow for increased density in nearby urban communities such as Tiberias and Safed, and building a new community would run contrary to encouraging the development of these areas, the ministry explained.
The community had been slated to rise from the western ridge of Arbel and contain 500 housing units, according to information from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI).
With the topic heading back to the cabinet – later to return, updated, to the National Council for Planning and Building – SPNI stressed the importance of reinforcing existing towns and cities in the region for a stronger Galilee.
“The strengthening of the Galilee is an important goal and must be achieved by condensation and expansion of existing settlements, which desperately need new inhabitants, and not by establishing new communities, which would have a substantially negative impact on natural assets, scenery and open spaces,” a statement from SPNI read.