Developers keen to take their slice of ecology pie

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 May, 2005, 12:00am

Developers keen to take their slice of ecology pieNew policy expected to garner at least six proposals for building on sensitive sites

Property developers are lining up to propose projects at some of Hong Kong's most ecologically sensitive sites under a new conservation policy launched last year.

At least six developers are planning to suggest proposals on the privately owned sites before Tuesday's deadline amid a speedily recovering property market.

The new policy aims to conserve important sites on privately owned land, which the government had little power to protect but for which developers found it difficult to get planning approval.

Central to the policy is the idea of public-private partnerships being granted development opportunities on a limited part of the site, but only if most of the site can be conserved in a sustainable way.

It is understood Swire Properties and Sun Hung Kai Properties have united to revive a housing development proposal for Tai Ho on north Lantau and will submit a proposal next week.

A smaller developer is also canvassing environmentalists' views on a proposal for a development themed around a spa and Chinese herbal medicine centre in Wu Kau Tang.

Another developer, believed to be New World Development, is tipped to propose projects in Mau Ping.

The sites are among the 12 top-priority ecological sites ranked according to a new system applied when the government unveiled the policy last year.

The top-ranked site is a Mai Po wetlands site, followed by Sha Lo Tung and Tai Ho.

An inter-departmental taskforce will be set up to scrutinise the proposals.

Any chosen proposal will still have to go through the statutory planning and environmental protection process.

A spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Department yesterday said no proposals had been received so far.

However, information on any submissions would be released to the public.

But an official source said the department would be careful to select only comprehensive and sustainable plans which had conservation as their top priority.

Swire Properties has confirmed that it plans to submit a proposal next week but declined to reveal more details of the project.

But sources said that a large part of the 225 hectare Tai Ho site would be turned into an 'Ecology Park' while residential units would be built on a piece of land to be obtained from the government in exchange for other land from the developer.

A conservation fund would also be set up to manage the park.

In 2000, Swire and Sun Hung Kai proposed a development in Tai Ho including both village housing and high-density housing.

Alex Lam Kut-shing, a village head from Tai Ho and vice-chairman of the Mui Woo Rural Committee, said some villagers had been asked by the developers to 'sign' their support for the project.

'They haven't come to me yet though some villagers said [developers] were lobbying support from them. So far, I have little idea what they are planning to do.'


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