Urban planning

'Unfinished' village estate gets nod

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Village housing developments with government approval do not necessarily provide buyers with basic infrastructure such as a proper access road and power supply, an investigation by the South China Morning Post found.

For instance, despite having only a dirt road for access and CLP Power's denial of power supply, a residential development near the border has obtained certificates of compliance from the Lands Department.

The estate in Ping Yeung, Ta Kwu Ling, comprises at least 30 village houses and was placed on the market about two weeks ago.

However, it is also complicated by an unresolved private land dispute and the abuse of the small house policy by villagers who sold their property for profit immediately after securing government approval.

Yet roughly 22 floors of the three-storey houses have been sold to mainlanders and Hongkongers working in Shenzhen by last Tuesday, according to a property agent.

The development is but one example of what critics have long complained about - that the government has been ignoring the disorderly development of village houses across the New Territories. They are calling for planning controls to be imposed on such residential areas.

Surrounded by abandoned farmland, wasteland and some modernised village houses, the Ping Yeung development, named 'The Parkland', is marketed as a high-end property.

The price of a flat that occupies a single floor can be as high as HK$3 million despite the remote location.

The estate is close to Ping Che, a new district designated for low-density residences and special industries. The Parkland will also be 10 minutes away from a new boundary crossing, to be completed in 2018, at Heung Yuen Wai.

Despite The Parkland's promising future, the direct access road in front of it is occupied by two concrete blocks due to a land dispute with a private owner. It is also uncertain when CLP Power will install a power system.

A CLP spokeswoman said it would not process the estate's application unless the developer could show certain evidence such as the availability of land and a proper drainage system.

Installation of a power system usually takes two to three months.

On Tuesday, a property agent told prospective buyers that the houses would have access to power when they moved in.

'The developer will provide electricity from a temporary source if it can't obtain it from the power company in time,' the agent said.

On its part, the Lands Department has confirmed that it approved the construction of 22 small houses at the site after having given indigenous villagers a free building licence in 2007. Sixteen of the houses have secured a certificate of compliance.

The department said it was not within its purview to carry out infrastructure works and that villagers were expected to arrange the road access as well as the water and power supplies.

The certificate of compliance will be issued if all 'positive obligations' stipulated under the licence are fully complied with, according to the department, which did not specify what the obligations are.

However the South China Morning Post has obtained the department's certificate checklist, which shows that it only looks at the size and dimension of a house and its extended structures, the size of the water tank and electricity-meter box, and the direction of the septic tank. Yu Wah-sang, a director of Richery Honour Development, which is involved in The Parkland development, said the estate had complied with all the legal processes. Although the developer will relinquish its claim to the aforementioned direct-access route, the estate's homeowners could use an access route on government land that is to its north.

'The track has existed for a number of years and we've just smoothed it a bit,' Yu said, adding that he had secured approval from the Town Planning Board in March to build a power sub-station on farm land.

The application was approved with conditions, including the submission and implementation of fire-service installations, a drainage proposal, and a landscape proposal that meets the requirements of various government departments.

Democratic lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, who is expected to file a motion to review the small house policy next month, said the threshold for obtaining a certificate of compliance should be raised to ensure the houses were habitable.

Ng Cho-nam, an urban planning professor and a former Town Planning Board member, has called for planning controls on village housing areas.

'The chaotic village development is a waste of land resources, posing risks to the environment and undermining the quality of life.'