A Reform in the Planning and Building Committee
A Brainstorming Session with the Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office (6.08.09)
As we prepare to examine the reform in the planning system of the State of Israel, we must firstly recognize the fact that the State of Israel is a state with unique circumstances. The central and most significant piece of information is that the land of Israel is a limited resource and present and future needs are great. Therefore it is imperative to plan land use wisely and to keep future needs in mind. Furthermore, the State of Israel possesses additional characteristics that should be taken into consideration:
- A fertility rate similar to developing countries versus a consumption rate similar to developed countries.
- A narrow width reaching a mere 15 km in certain areas.
- Israeli society is comprised of weak populations such as minorities, haredim and olim who tend to prioritize urgent needs and short term considerations over long term planning goals.
- Throughout all the years of its existence, the State of Israel faced Zionist challenges that necessitated the initiation of projects requiring substantial reserves of land and central planning, for example: absorbing waves of mass immigration, establishing the Misgav settlement bloc in the Galilee, establishing the city Bahadim in the Negev, establishing central infrastructure systems (such as the natural gas lines and Highway 6), strengthening the periphery, etc.
- The disparities in the quality of life between the center and periphery of the State are drastically increasing.
- Most local authorities do not function properly: State comptroller reports indicate a declining trend both in terms of integrity and in terms of proper management. A majority of authorities collect less than 50% of property taxes. Many local authorities are lacking the abilities and tools to properly manage planning while catering to the broad public-national interest, as opposed to what can be observed in national planning policy.
- The rate of enforcement of planning and building laws is low in the population as a whole and in all sectors of society.
In light of the aforementioned, following is a list of core tenets for any future planning policy.
- The government should maintain jurisdiction over powers that facilitate the preservation of national interests.
- Aside from the environmental function they hold, open expanses serve as a national reserve of the State of Israel to be used for future generations and Diaspora Jewry. The tools currently available in the planning system should be utilized to preserve the open expanses as a national reserve of the State.
- The enforcement system for planning and building laws should be immediately reinforced without political considerations or sectoral distinctions.
- The enforcement should be focused primarily on open expanses (as opposed to building violations such as enclosing a porch).
- The transfer of building and planning authority to local authorities should be done, if at all, in a gradual and controlled manner, and only to authorities that have demonstrated proper management over time and possess the skills and tools necessary for exercising these powers. Therefore, the appointment of local planning and building committees, in accordance with Article 62.a. of the Planning and Building Law should be carried out without the easing of rules or quantitative quotas. Government Resolution No. 117 (ממי/5) from 12.05.2009, which instructs “the Minister of Interior to appoint at least ten local planning and building committees…during each of the years 2010-2014” can bring about an undesirable modification of the criteria stated by law. It is proposed to only approve local authorities that have demonstrated that they fulfill the professional criteria as stated by law.