Nod for building of village house in green belt zone

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 February, 2010, 12:00am

The Town Planning Board yesterday approved the construction of a village house on government land zoned as green belt in a Tai Po community notorious for illegal excavation and dumping.

The approval was the second in two months involving Shan Liu village. Critics say the decisions will further embolden villagers to excavate land in the belief they will eventually obtain building permission.

The three-storey house approved yesterday will be built on a site which is 99.5 per cent green belt. It was stripped of vegetation in 2007. As most of the land is not private, the applicant had to seek a land grant from the Lands Department.

Granting planning permission, the board's Rural and New Town Planning Committee set out conditions including that construction could start only after a proposed sewer line had been linked to the village.

The decision follows a similar move in December, when the committee allowed construction of a small house on a private agricultural lot, the first such approval in the almost-deserted village area since 2003. In the interim, a total of 13 applications were rejected, mostly on environmental and land use compatibility grounds.

Most of the buildings have been demolished leaving only an ancestral hall in the middle of the site. But the village chief has estimated there will be demand for 270 houses in the next 10 years under the small-house policy, which allows descendants of indigenous New Territories villagers to build three-storey houses with a footprint of 700 sq ft. This would require about nine hectares of land.

Committee member Dr Ng Cho-nam said the application approved yesterday met all the basic technical requirements, most importantly connection to drainage.

'The past applications were rejected because they could not connect to the sewers,' Ng said. 'But the situation has changed. Even if this was rejected this time, it might still stand a good chance to have the decision reversed on appeal.'

He said the history of illegal excavation and dumping of construction waste at the site was not regarded as relevant to the application. Planning officials were satisfied with the restoration of the site, which had been covered with waste in 2007, but Ng said this may still be subject to dispute by green groups.

Ng also said small-house applications on green belt land were not usually favoured if they involved tree felling. But in this case, the trees had already been removed.

While it was difficult to predict if more small houses would be built at Shan Liu village, Ng said it was almost certain that future development would be chaotic. He said the village was accessible only by the one-vehicle-width Shan Liu Road and development would bring more traffic.

'I would not be surprised to see it become another Ho Chung village in Sai Kung, where small houses were gradually built up inside the village development zone and its surroundings because there was no sustainable design,' he said.

A land owner in Ho Chung plans to build a house that blocks the only access road.