Planners reject appeal against artificial beach

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 December, 2008, 12:00am

Board refuses to reverse vote

The Town Planning Board yesterday upheld its decision to allow the government to create a sand beach at Lung Mei in Tolo Harbour, rejecting conservationists' views that the project could create an ecological disaster.

Disappointed by the board's decision, green groups said they would petition lawmakers who control the project's funding.

The board met yesterday to consider views raised by green groups, which objected to the board's decision in January to zone the Lung Mei site as a bathing beach. A spokeswoman said the board decided to uphold its original decision, although some board members still had concerns about the ecological effects of creating an artificial beach.

'The board has no grounds to change the zoning as environmental experts have already endorsed the environmental impact assessment conducted by the government's consultant,' the spokeswoman said.

Last month, a meeting of the government's Advisory Council on the Environment endorsed the report on the tie-breaking vote of its chairman, although half of the members at the meeting said they had doubts about the report's findings.

Green groups said they had found about 200 animal, bird and marine species during two visits to the Lung Mei site. They challenged the government consultant's ecological assessment as flawed because it only identified about 30 species in the area during a three-month research period.

HK Wildlife Forum spokesman Dickson Wong Chi-chun said he was disappointed with the board's decision and would try to persuade lawmakers to veto the project's funding.

'The board is just a rubber stamp,' he said, adding that his group would unite with other green groups to campaign against the project and an ecological report would be sent to the chief executive and the Legislative Council.

Friends of the Earth director Edwin Lau Che-feng, who is a member of the Advisory Council on the Environment, said it was dangerous for the board to base its decision on the council's controversial decision. He said water quality at Lung Mei would be unsuitable for swimming for 38 per cent of the year, even if sewage facilities were installed at the proposed beach.

If it goes ahead, the HK$130 million project will see about a hectare of land reclaimed at Lung Mei near the Plover Cove Reservoir to provide space for 100 car-parking spaces and a building that could cater to the demands of about 4,000 visitors a day during the peak summer period.

The project was mooted by local politicians in 1998. They said people living in Tai Po did not have sufficient swimming facilities. But conservationists fear the construction work required - dredging of 10,500 square metres of seabed to form a 200-by-30-metre bathing beach - will damage the environment.

A Civil Engineering and Development Department spokesman said it would carry out mitigation measures, adding that the construction would start in the middle of next year and finish in mid-2011.