Villagers fight to save homes from villas plan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 April, 2010, 12:00am

Some 300 residents of a Yuen Long village have submitted objections to the Town Planning Board against developers' plans to raze their homes for a luxury housing development.

Yau Tam Mei Tsuen, a non-indigenous village, stands within the 63,790 square metre development site in rural Yuen Long, which has gradually made way for several similar projects in recent years.

According to the minutes of a 2009 Town Planning Board meeting when the initial plan was rejected, it was proposed by a subsidiary of big developer Henderson Land Development. A Henderson spokeswoman yesterday said the company was unaware of such an application. The current application was submitted by four companies.

The board is scheduled to discuss the proposal in June.

The plan envisages construction of 126 houses and a clubhouse. The proposal was revised after it was initially rejected by the board last year for the excessive density involved.

Chau Kwei-yin, 60, who has lived in the village all his life, said villagers were '100 per cent against' the development. 'Many of us are old folks who have lived here for decades. Many are farmers and are used to the rural quiet life, earning a living by farming,' Chau, who runs an organic farm, said. The village co-operative sells residents' produce to the wholesale market in Cheung Sha Wan.

The development plan covers not just private land but also government land, which makes up one-third of the site area. About 100 families, one-sixth of the households in the village, live on public land. This means the developers will have to seek a land exchange with the government even if the planning board approves the development.

'The government should not exchange land with the developers,' Chau said.

The government does not recognise Yau Tam Mei Tsuen as an indigenous village and calls the residents squatters, although the place has existed for more than 100 years.

The policy of the government is to compensate squatters on public land with an allowance or relocate them to public rental housing if it wants to clear the land for development.

'We don't want to move to public housing, as we're so used to this place,' Chau said.

Chau and 14 other representatives submitted a petition supported by 300 residents at a meeting with Planning Department officials yesterday.

Another villager said non-indigenous villagers had been a weak community that had the least say in urban sprawl. 'I am not against development, but must it chase us away?' this villager said. He was afraid other villagers living on private land would be driven out with no compensation.

A spokeswoman for the Planning Department declined to comment on the case, as it would be discussed by the Town Planning Board.