Boost for housing project near reserve

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 August, 2008, 12:00am

Property developer Cheung Kong has overcome another hurdle in realising its plans to build residential housing among fish ponds in Yuen Long, after the government allowed its environmental report to be put up for public comment yesterday.

The Fung Lok Wai project seeks to develop only 5 per cent of an 80-hectare site near the Mai Po reserve. The remaining area will be turned into a wetland nature reserve comprising fish ponds and marshes to be run by an independent body.

The permission to release the environmental impact assessment report of the building plan to the public was a boost to the property developer, which had been struggling to win support from sceptics over the feasibility of its plans.

The developer won Town Planning Board principle support to its plan in 1999. But since 2000, the Environmental Protection Department has not given the nod to the suitability of the report for public inspection.

According to the latest report submitted by Mutual Luck Investment, a subsidiary of Cheung Kong, the development was to be completed by 2016. One of the options was to have the maximum height lowered from 24 storeys to 18, though the number of blocks was increased slightly to cover the loss. The report said the layout would have minimal impact on birds.

The developer also pledged to set up a non-profit foundation to oversee the reserve, to be managed by professionals.

It hoped the running costs could be partially covered by fish sales integrated with conservation measures to maintain the ponds' ecological value and attractiveness to birds.

Cheng Luk-ki, from Green Power, said there was an inherent conflict in the conservation project cum commercial fish pond operation.

'Can farmers kick away the birds preying on the fish at the ponds to protect the reserve's revenue? If not, how can they maintain a stable income to finance their operation?' he said.

The report is available on the website of the Environmental Protection Department and the inspection and comment period will end on September 3. The department would then consider whether or not to approve the report.