High Court comes out against Tshuva’s plan for four hotel towers on Haifa beach

High Court comes out against Tshuva’s plan for four hotel towers on Haifa beach

Environment Ministry hails victory as judges appear to bury 1970s project with a demand for ‘a more modest’ version, that will not involve draining sea to create a bigger beach

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

View of the Leonardo hotel on the beachside of Haifa (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
View of the Leonardo hotel on the beachside of Haifa (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

In another setback for struggling tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva, the High Court of Justice indicated Sunday that it would side with the Environmental Protection Ministry against plans to extend sections of the Carmel Beach in the northern city of Haifa into the sea in order to build four hotel towers.

The court ordered the parties — Tshuva’s Carmel Beach Leisure and Tourism 89, the Haifa Municipality and the Haifa District Planning Committee, to work out a more modest alternative. One of the options put forward by the court was that the company be given building rights elsewhere.

The company told the Globes business daily that it was determined to execute its building rights and was also considering suing the municipality and planning authorities for compensation.

With coronavirus hammering the oil and gas industry, Tshuva has seen the share price of his Delek Group — which, via Delek Drilling, is heavily invested in Israel’s natural gas industry — drop by 85 percent since the beginning of this year.

Israeli businessman Yitzhak Tshuva speaks at an energy conference in Tel Aviv, February 27, 2018. (Flash90)

The case discussed Sunday dates back to 1978 when planning permission was given to build six 7-to-24 story hotels on the Carmel Beach at the southern entrance to Haifa.

Tshuva became the controlling shareholder of the company after the original owners built two of the planned hotels.

In 2013, his plans for the additional four were rejected by the Haifa District Planning Committee in a decision backed by a later appeals court, partly on the grounds that it contravened the Coastal Environment Protection Law passed in 2004.

But in January, in a victory for Tshuva, the Haifa Court of Administrative Affairs decided to send the issue back for further discussion at the Haifa District Court. Sunday’s decision overturned the January one.

The Environmental Protection Ministry has always opposed the plan to artificially lower the water table via drains and pumps to allow for the beach to be extended.

The Leonardo Hotel on Carmel Beach in the northern city of Haifa, as seen from the beach side. (Dov Greenblatt, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel).

One issue that has arisen several times over the years is Tshuva’s company’s claim that the Haifa Municipality should contribute towards the cost of extending out the beach, which could run into hundreds of millions of shekels. The company has claimed that the works will provide a better beach for the public. High Court Justice Menachem Mazuz, one of three judges considering the case on Sunday, noted that the usual practice was for the developer to pay.

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel welcomed the ruling, saying that it gave a significant push to protecting the coastal environment and the public interest.

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel. (Courtesy, Environmental Protection Ministry)

Planners are increasingly putting weight on preserving open coastal areas.

Earlier this year, a planning committee ruled against allowing construction of a holiday resort on Betzet Beach in the western Galilee in northern Israel, just days after a court ruled against construction of a resort and conference center on the popular Palmachim beach between Ashdod and Bat Yam.

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