Heat on Beersheba holiday village plans

Despite the support of the Tourism Ministry, plans to construct a giant water park and holiday village at the northern entrance to Beersheba have become bogged down in a bureaucratic battle, reports www.mynet.co.il. Lawyers for the Beerot Hila investment group of foreign and local entrepreneurs say the $32 million project has been on a "journey of torment" for years, and there is still no end in sight. According to the report, the group lodged plans and requested the allocation of 130 dunams of land at the northern entrance to the city five years ago for the construction of a vacation village themed to suit the desert environment. According to the plans, the area would contain a 60-dunam water park designed like a desert oasis and a 30-dunam holiday village containing 120 top-quality units designed "in desert style" and facing open views of the desert, as well as a convention center able to seat 300 people. Public areas and car parks would occupy the remaining space in the project. A lawyer for the Beerot Hila group said the investors were interested in the project not only for its business potential, but also as a Zionist enterprise that would enable them to invest in Israel. Calling the past five years a "journey of torment," the lawyer cited bureaucracy holding up the project, and that he had written to the relevant ministers and to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asking them to conclude interdepartmental discussions on the subject and to give final approval to the plans so that permits could be obtained by the end of this year and work could begin in 2010. The report said the Tourism Ministry is in favor of the plan and has recommended that it go ahead, but the Israel Lands Authority is opposing it and is proposing that it be moved to the Hatzerim Park area outside Beersheba. An ILA spokesman said the location of the project was problematic, because there were already plans to construct a 26,000-unit residential neighborhood north of Beersheba. The spokesman said the new neighborhood would close off the holiday village and surround it "on all sides" with dense housing, "so that treating this enterprise as one that will be on open land, with views, a center for tours and similar things, is an essential mistake." The spokesman said the area had to blend in with the urban nature of the planned neighborhood.