The Planning Department expanded the village-type development zone in Pak Sha O, Sai Kung, by 140 percent in its zoning plans issued last month.
The extra land could be used to build 29 “small houses” under the New Territories Small House Policy, Ming Pao Daily reported Tuesday.
The department said it had collected opinions from villagers, environmental groups and the public in formulating the zoning plans for Pak Sha O, which has until now been classified as an enclave — an area of private landholdings (together with some adjacent pieces of government land) that is excluded from the country park surrounding it.
A department official said it had considered multiple factors, including the boundaries of villages, applications for construction of “small houses” that have yet to be processed, anticipated demand for “small houses”, terrain, land use restrictions and the historical buildings present in the two recognized villages.
The ownership of the plots concerned was not part of the considerations, the official said.
Land Registry records show that more than half of the plots concerned have been owned at some time by Xinhua Bookstore Xiang Jiang Group Ltd. A director of the firm, Lau Ming-shum, is the chairman of Treasure Spot Holdings Ltd., which is engaged in property development.
Xinhua Bookstore has been breaking up some of these plots and transferring the smaller pieces to individuals who may be indigenous villagers, the report said.
Pak Sha O is located near Hoi Ha in Sai Kung and has a gross area of 33 hectares. The enclave is engulfed by Sai Kung Country Park.
Roy Ng Hei-man, assistant campaign manager at the Conservancy Association, said the government’s latest zoning plans will increase the land available for village-type development to 1.2 hectares from 0.5 hectare under the previous zoning plans published in 2012.
The Town Planning Board is conducting a public consultation on the zoning plans for Pak Sha O until Feb. 4.
In September last year, village representatives from Pak Sha O, Sai Kung and the Tai Po Rural Committee wrote to the Planning Department complaining that only 0.32 hectare of land was available for village-type development.
The documents they submitted indicated that there would be a demand for 190 “small houses” between 2015 and 2024.
The government slashed the target for the coming 10 years to 49 units, saying there were only 38 applications in process at the time.
However, the government did allocate an additional 0.7 hectare for village-type development.
The Town Planning Board said in a meeting in October that the demand for “small houses” by villagers at Pak Sha O should be considered.
By December, the Planning Department rezoned most of the agricultural land in the enclave for village-type development.
Ironically, most of the indigenous inhabitants of Pak Sha O have migrated overseas, Ng said. All the residents of the village now are rent-paying tenants.
He suggested that the government’s latest planning proposal was tailor-made for developers to maximize their economic benefits.
Ng said the Town Planning Board has already reserved land for construction of 46 “small houses” at the Pak Tam Au site, also in Sai Kung.
If needed, Pak Sha O villagers can seek to build their “small houses” at the Pak Tam Au site.
Pak Sha O is one of a very few well-preserved Hakka villages in Hong Kong.
It had a large patch of wetland in front of the village that had high ecological value but was illegally reclaimed in 2012 and turned into farmland.
Since 1999, 175 species of birds have been spotted in Pak Sha O, accounting for one-third of all bird species in Hong Kong, and butterflies accounting for 30 percent of local butterfly species.
The construction of several dozen “small houses” would inevitably contaminate the river in the absence of a large sewage treatment system, Ng said.
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