Board wants briefing on planning debate

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 May, 2010, 12:00am

The Town Planning Board has asked to be briefed on planning officials' discussions in 2004 about linking the record of activities at a particular piece of land to consideration of any planning application involving the land, a link described as the 'clean record test'.

The test was proposed as a way to address the common practice in rural areas of carrying out work before applying for planning permission, commonly referred to as 'destroy first and develop later', but planning officials concluded at the time that a bad record would not be sufficient grounds for rejecting a planning application.

The request for a briefing came after a meeting of the board's Rural and New Town Planning Committee yesterday which, as expected, approved a controversial small house application on an illegal dumping site in Ho Sheung Heung, Sheung Shui.

Four other small house applications for the area affected by the illegal dumping, which took place last year, were approved in 2008, and six owners recently filed a joint land- filling application for their land at the illegal dumping site.

The six were ordered to remove the waste dumped on their properties last year and to cover the site with grass by April, but the restoration work has not been completed, the Planning Department said.

The department has yet to decide whether to support the new land-filling application, although the committee's approval of the small house application and associated land- filling yesterday means the six owners are likely to get their way.

The indigenous landowner whose application was approved yesterday, Hau Wai-nam, has also failed to fully comply with the order to remove all waste and grass the site.

At the committee meeting, Yau Wing-kwong queried whether members should ignore Hau's application until the enforcement issue was fully settled or proceed with discussion regardless.

Hui Wai-keung, district planning officer for North District, assured the committee that while he had no power to oversee enforcement, Hau would not be allowed to evade his obligation to restore the site. 'Even if the application is approved, he will have to sort out himself how to satisfy the reinstatement order as required by the law,' he said.

Explaining the decision to approve the application, a spokeswoman for the committee said the jurisdiction of the committee, under the Town Planning Ordinance, did not cover enforcement issues, which were the job of the Planning Department. 'That means the planning request and enforcement are dealt with separately,' she said.

The application satisfied the criteria for assessing small house applications, she said, and there was no major concern on land use compatibility since four small houses nearby had been approved in 2008.

But the committee attached a special condition to the approval requiring the owner to complete construction of a drainage system to the satisfaction of the Drainage Services Department before starting work on building the house.

The meeting was told the house site would be elevated, but some members raised concerns that doing so would aggravate flooding problems in the area.