Access to popular park sites blocked

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 July, 2006, 12:00am

Path to Clear Water Bay beaches and a kite-flying spot shut off after landowner tires of trespassers

A landowner has fenced off a big section of Clear Water Bay Country Park - blocking off beaches and a headland popular with kite-fliers - to stop the government encroaching on his land.

The owner of the 56,536 sq ft piece of land near Lobster Bay erected the barricades after increasing numbers of people began trespassing on his land to get to the headland, where democrats last month staged their annual protest for freedom and democracy on the mainland.

The government has never built public access to the site.

The fencing, which will eventually extend over a section of road leading to a barbecue site, blocked access to the pebbled beaches in the park.

A worker on the site said the government used the land illegally.

'The owner has the right to protect his property,' he said. 'This has been taken over by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for many years.'

The man, who did not want to be named, added: 'They even built a road through it and took over part of it for the barbecue site. Why can't they build a road to go around?'

The owner, who bought the seven lots under the name Top Ascent Limited, could not be reached for comment.

A regular park visitor, Joan Miyaoka, said she couldn't believe how fast the fences went up.

'If they block the beaches off all summer, nobody will come back next year,' she said. 'Then it will just become a private beach.

'This is one of the last places in Hong Kong that is unpolluted and pure. They have easy access, the view is magnificent and it is not crowded. They are rare natural beaches.'

The conservation, lands and environmental protection departments have investigated the site.

'It is private property and he has the right to fence it off without telling us,' a conservation department spokesman said. 'Part of the road [to the barbecue site] and half the barbecue site is also on private land so we have to give the area back.'

The spokesman said a small portion of Hong Kong's country parks was on private land. 'It is not an unusual thing.'

A week of bargaining between the conservation department and the owner resulted in the government returning half the barbecue site and a section of the road to the owner.

People who used to park near the picnic spot will have to find somewhere else to park.

A public path looping around the private property, connecting the beaches and leading to the headland will be built.

In exchange, the landowner has agreed to allow temporary access for kite-flying.

'He has agreed not to block it off while we build a road,' the department's spokesman said. 'It will take one to two months. I do not know how much it will cost. As for the beaches, people will have to find a long way round or wait until the new path is built.'

Land experts suggest that if the government wants to save a few dollars it can take the landowner to court.

'If the government can prove that the public has been using the land for 12 years without interruption and the owner has left the land untouched, it can seize the land back,' said Angela Lee, a partner with law firm Baker & McKenzie.