Urban planning

Concerns deepen on village housing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2007, 12:00am

Planners call for an end to small-house policy

Proposals to speed up construction of village houses in the New Territories have deepened concern among town planners about development encroaching on suburban areas.

They have urged the government to scrap the small-house policy.

The government began reviewing the scheme in 2005 but has made little progress after a suggestion last year that multi-storey development be allowed in villages to relieve demand for small houses from indigenous male villagers.

In proposals revealed yesterday by the Planning Department, small houses would be allowed to be built on open spaces and greenbelt areas without the need for planning permission from the Town Planning Board.

Under the small-house policy, introduced in 1972, indigenous male villagers aged 18 or above who are descended through the male line of recognised villages are allowed to build one three-storey house of 700 sq ft per floor.

Chan Kim-on, vice-president of the Institute of Planners, said the government should come up with a timetable as early as possible to end the small-house policy.

'Villagers are building houses without proper drainage systems or close monitoring from the government,' he said. 'It is no longer acceptable.'

He said the uncontrollable rise of small houses caused problems like river pollution and led to infrastructure development that was incompatible with rural areas.

Ng Cho-nam, a member of the Town Planning Board, said the small-house policy did not make good use of land, which was Hong Kong's most precious resource.

'It is ridiculous to see villagers building their own roads out of nowhere,' he said, adding that the government should come up with alternative options to compensate the villagers, such as swapping the small house with a high-rise flat.

Pong Yuen-yee, an experienced town planner, said roads, utilities and infrastructure built around clusters of small houses lacked planning.

'If the population and traffic in rural areas continue to rise, we will no longer be able to distinguish a village from a town,' she said.

The former Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau, having realised there was a lack of land to meet the demands of villagers, set up an interdepartmental panel to look into the issue in 2005.

Last February Michael Suen Ming-yeung, former secretary of the old housing, planning and lands bureau, recommended an increase in the development density of rural areas by allowing villagers to develop multi-storey buildings.

A pilot scheme was proposed in two villages, Pai Tau and Sheung Wo Che and Ha Mei Sun Tsuen, which are located on the fringes of new towns. It is expected that 900 flats and 1,100 flats can be provided respectively at the two villages.

But the chairman of the powerful Heung Yee Kuk rural body, Lau Wong-fat, said the proposal was suspended when the bureau was replaced by the Development Bureau.

No small problem

The number of indigenous male villagers entitled to build a small house: 240,000