National Planning Council wants changes to PM reform

Asks for continuity mechanisms and strengthening of local planning committees.

The National Planning and Construction Council laid out its position on the government’s planning and construction reform bill, in a statement released on Tuesday.
The council suggested several major changes to the legislation, which will be discussed in the Knesset’s various committees once it reconvenes following the spring recess.
The council is the prime planning authority in the country and is made up of representatives of all levels of government and from professional, environmental and social organizations and academia.
The bill passed in first reading before the Knesset break, but the government agreed to address the council’s findings in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
The council said in the statement that after holding two exhaustive discussions on the bill, the council “recognized the importance of the reform and congratulates the government on its initiative to update the 1965 Planning and Construction Law.”
Among the council’s recommendations is the creation of mechanisms to maintain continuity during the process of doing away with district master plans, restructuring the make-up of planning committees, increasing public transparency in planning processes, adding socioeconomic surveys to all plans that come before the committees, and promoting open-spaces protection mechanisms.
The council also recommended that the government act to strengthen local planning committees, in preparation for the new responsibilities they will have if the bill becomes law.
Along with its formal recommendations, the council also passed on theMinisterial Committee on Legislation hundred of suggestions from itsmembers that the council did not vote on.
The reform, which was drawn up by the Prime Minister’s Office, aims toreduce red tape in the planning process and the issuing of buildingpermits. The reform has come under severe criticism, including frommembers of the government, who say it would give too much power tolocal authorities who don’t have the knowledge and resources to dealwith external pressures, and warn of a rise in corruption and thedisappearance of the country’s open spaces.
Critics of the bill also say it would produce hundreds of more“Holylands,” referring to the Jerusalem Holyland housing complex affairin which city officials are suspected of taking bribes in exchange forissuing construction permits.