16 February 2019
The New Territories rural council is facing questions over a proposal to use some green zones to build more small houses. Photo: HKEJ
The New Territories rural council is facing questions over a proposal to use some green zones to build more small houses. Photo: HKEJ

Rural council eyes green zone plots for building small houses

The rural council, known officially as Heung Yee Kuk N.T., is said to be mulling plans to build up to 15,000 small houses on green belts under the New Territories Small House Policy.

According to a leaked draft of a report compiled by the Heung Yee Kuk recently, there were an estimated 132 hectares of private land plots, equivalent to seven Victoria Parks, within the village boundaries in New Territories that are classified as green belt by the Town Planning Board (TPB).

Under the Town Planning Ordinance, approvals from the TPB must be sought before any small houses are built in a green belt zone.

The rural council said in its report that releasing the green belt zones for residential development would not only help boost land supply, it will also enable the government to reap political benefits by satisfying the demands of indigenous inhabitants, Ming Pao Daily reported.

Heung Yee Kuk chairman Kenneth Lau Yip-keung said the Town Planning Ordinance, which was introduced in the 1990s, froze some privately-owned land plots by classifying them into green belt or agriculture lands.

The move has hurt the interests of the property owners and led to insufficient land supply for building small houses, he said.

The Development Bureau and Planning Department said they have not received any proposals from the rural council.

Under the existing New Territories Small House Policy, qualified indigenous inhabitants can apply to build small houses within government-recognized village environs.

However, the Lands Department will consider proposals only if a construction plan is compliant with town planning policies. Applications will usually be approved if the proposed construction is on a Village Type Development Zone (V Zone).

If the land plot concerned is a green belt, the application will have to be examined individually by the TPB.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, vice-chairperson of TPB, said the agency would only consider allowing house construction on green belt plots if all the V Zones are used up.

Wong described the proposal by Heung Yee Kuk as inappropriate. The TPB will not allow small houses to be scattered around New Territories without proper planning and zoning, he said.

Chan Kim-ching, a researcher with Liber Research Community, noted that Heung Yee Kuk has made an aggressive proposal.

As there are government lands and private plots in the vast area of green belt zones, any rezoning initiatives, which are effected regardless of the ownership of lands, could mean that government lands are given away for building of small houses, he said.

Chan slammed the rural council for trying to use public resources for expansion of the New Territories Small House Policy. Some villagers could even start cutting trees down in green belt zones if they learn that the plots could be allowed for residential construction, he said.

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