Superjail overcomes planning obstacle
Plans to build the controversial superjail on Hei Ling Chau overcame a significant hurdle yesterday when the Town Planning Board rejected a request to zone the island a greenbelt.
The board decided there was no urgency to protect the land from development.
The Conservancy Association expressed disappointment after hearing the decision. It criticised the board for conspiring with the Security Bureau to deprive the public of the opportunity to decide on the land use of the island.
At present, the island is not zoned for any purpose. The green group asked the board to have the island and the nearby Sunshine Island zoned as a greenbelt. This was intended to block the government from building the 80-hectare superjail, or any other unauthorised development.
But the board said yesterday that as there were already three prisons on the island, it was unlikely any future government development would be unauthorised.
A spokeswoman also said as the Security Bureau had not decided on the future of the superjail, the board saw no urgency to have a statutary development plan and turn the area into a greenbelt.
But the Security Bureau said a feasibility study on the superjail was being finalised.
Betty Ho Siu-fong, vice-chairwoman of the Conservancy Association, said: 'It is the board's duty to prepare a development plan for the area before the Security Bureau comes up with a decision on the superjail. It will give the public a forum to discuss how the land should be used.'
The government has argued that it needs the new jail because prisons are overcrowded, with an occupancy rate of 115 per cent and still rising, and some facilities have long passed their useful life spans.