Jerusalem park plan halted for blocking Arab neighborhoods

Jerusalem park plan halted for blocking Arab neighborhoods

Building council calls for better review on how Mount Scopus nature reserve will affect local residents

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya (photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya (photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The National Planning and Building Council on Wednesday froze a plan to establish a national park on the slopes of Mount Scopus in Jerusalem after local Arab residents complained it would suffocate expansion of their neighborhoods.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority was behind the drive to set up the 180-acre park that was approved by a regional planning council in 2011.

However, residents of Issawiya and A-Tur, two east Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods, claim that the park will block any expansion of their neighborhoods that lie adjacent to the allotted land, Haaretz reported.

Objectors also said that the land in question has no particular natural or archaeological interest that justifies preserving it as a national park.

The Ir Amim and B’makom rights organizations helped the residents launch the petition against the project.

The national council decided that although the decision to set up the park was justified, there was no comprehensive scheme that included a consideration of the needs of the local population.

The council said it had not been provided with “an overall analysis of the needs of the population in the appellant neighborhoods and a review of existing development reserves.”

Such information, the council said, was “a mandatory condition before taking a decision on the boundaries of the national park based on the full considerations required by the topic.”

The council decided to send the matter back to the regional council for review, before the plan is approved, to look at the development needs of the two neighborhoods and to take them into consideration when defining the boundaries of the park.

Last October Environment Minister Amir Peretz also ordered the INPA to halt progress for the park until local residents could be consulted, Haaretz reported at the time.

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