Only grant land for small houses when there is confirmation of adequate access
The picture of Wendy Hui from Kwun Hang Tsuen in Ma On Shan after she was 'bludgeoned over the head' is a rare insight into the violence over access and parking in villages ('Women assaulted in long-standing village row', May 3).
The iceberg of growing disturbances and frustration is invisible, as most villagers keep their mouths shut when tyres are slashed or corrosive liquid is poured over cars. After all, it is where they and their children live. Often, they are intimidated into paying fees to villagers who pour concrete over government land to create unauthorised roads and parking areas.
The director of lands and her implementation of the small- house policy is directly responsible for this dangerous atmosphere. When the Lands Department approves small houses, the deed states that no right of way is guaranteed. Lot owners are asked to make their own arrangements. In the early days, it might have been practical to let villagers arrange access and easement over each other's land. In the 1980s, the planning department made an effort, preparing village layout plans, but gave up after completing only 69 plans for some village environs.
The negotiation over land was deemed too cumbersome and all negotiation power was lost after the budget for building roads, sewage systems and amenities in villages was cut. The Transport Department sheds all responsibility. It does not comment on villages except for access onto public roads. It deems villages 'generally adequately served' by public transport irrespective of their distance from mass transit systems and car ownership.
Over the last two years, Designing Hong Kong has warned the government and Town Planning Board of the dire consequences of continuing land grants for small houses without a proper layout of roads, parking and amenities.
The ombudsman described the situation as 'obviously not ideal' and said the crux is the overwhelming demand for building small houses and a shortage of land. He has urged the administration to complete its small-house-policy review, which has been under way for some years.
Wendy Hui is a reminder that the government has blood on its hands.
The Lands Department must immediately change its procedures, and grant land for small houses only when there is confirmation that adequate access and parking spaces are available. Arguments from the Heung Yee Kuk that this is a harsh requirement can be disregarded: the villagers have no intention to live in the new houses, only to pocket the cash.
Paul Zimmerman, chief executive, Designing Hong Kong Limited