Developer wins bid to rezone Tai Po green belt, farmland for spa resort

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 February, 2009, 12:00am

The Town Planning Board yesterday approved a developer's proposal to rezone a Ting Kok site for a spa resort project, sparking concerns among environmentalists about further encroachment on rural Tai Po.

The 3.3-hectare site facing Plover Cove is the first area to be rezoned for a spa resort in the city.

Originally zoned as green belt and farmland, the site lies northeast of a mangrove site of special scientific interest, and northwest of a controversial artificial beach planned at Lung Mei. To its immediate south, another planned hotel resort is to be assessed by the board.

Although the board approved the rezoning, proposed by developer Wheelock Properties, members raised concerns about the cumulative impact of the developments in the area during discussion.

'A spa hotel will discharge huge amounts of sewage compared to other developments, but the sea water quality was said to be poor when the government proposed the man-made beach,' board member Ng Cho-nam said. 'Can you guarantee the project will not worsen the water quality?'

Another board member, Tony Kan Chung-nin, said a giant Kwun Yum statue would be built at a nearby temple and he questioned whether the roads could cope with the future increase in traffic flow.

The hotel will discharge 377 cubic metres of sewage a day. Kenneth To Lap-kee, a consultant for the developer, said sewer and pumping stations' capacity would be enlarged and nearly half the sewage would be recycled for irrigation. The hotel would not open until this work was completed, he said, adding that road widening would absorb the traffic.

According to Wheelock's submission, the plan is based on a plot ratio of 0.6 and involves four three-storey hotel blocks and 20 villas for 237 guests. They will be built around a swimming pool, with a commercial complex on the corner of the site.

With the rezoning approved, the developer still has to submit another application for building the hotel and acquire the remaining 13 per cent of private land from villagers.

The project has drawn opposition from villagers and green groups.

Hong Kong Wildlife Forum member Yiu Vor said he was worried about the cumulative impact on wildlife.

'This part of Tai Po will inevitably be paved with concrete, reducing the breeding and feeding grounds for all sorts of wildlife,' he said. 'But I don't see the Planning Department raising the issue of cumulative impact when advising the board in the paper.'

The department said in the paper, released earlier this week, that the low-density resort should not worsen traffic and environmental conditions. The Tourism Commission supported the plan and said it would attract overseas tourists.

But the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department did not support the project, saying the development seems to deviate from the green belt zoning intention, which defines the limits of suburban development, and it 'will irreversibly destroy the farmland'.