Zoning order on Sai Wan beach is upheld

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 February, 2011, 12:00am

The Town Planning Board yesterday decided the existing temporary zoning allowing only agriculture is the best protection for defaced Sai Wan beach.

After considering 350 viewpoints at a public hearing, the board upheld the zoning order issued by the Planning Department.

The order will remain in effect for three years while the department comes up with a long-term plan.

More than 300 of the public submissions considered supported the temporary zoning, which does not allow other kinds of development without the board's approval.

Some green groups, while not objecting to the order, said the 17-hectare site in Sai Kung would be better served if incorporated into the surrounding country park or rezoned as a conservation area. 'The board, turning down the suggestions, takes the Planning Department's view that these ideas would be considered when determining the long-term use,' a spokeswoman for the board said.

The emergency zoning was given to the scenic site last year after it was found that contractors were excavating land owned by Simon Lo Lin-shing, chairman of Mongolia Energy. Lo was said to have a plan for turning the scenic area into a private retreat.

Six people, including drivers and contractors, were later prosecuted for environmental damage.

Meanwhile, the Wong T. Lap Foundation, which this week announced a hostel and cultivation project for the site, said it got in touch with landlord Lo on Thursday.

'Mr Lo called me and said he was willing to meet us and hear our ideas,' said a man who gave his name as K. C. Wong and said he was in charge of the foundation. A public relations company representing Lo declined comment.

Wong said the foundation had a HK$20 million donation, which it was ready to use to set up a conservation trust for Sai Wan.

His proposal for the site included a hostel providing bed space for 200 people, a flea market, camping areas, rain shelters and a community area to attract tourists.

A public forum would be organised on February 26 to discuss the project.

'The area, surrounded by the Hong Kong Geopark, would be a good base for the eco-tourism project. We do not aim at making money, though,' he said.

Alan Leung Sze-lun, senior conservation officer of WWF Hong Kong, said: 'There is no consensus that the public want to see the natural landscape become artificial. I am also concerned about the transparency of a private conservation trust, if there is to be one,' he said.

Conservation Association campaign manager Peter Lee Siu-man said he was sceptical of the Wong proposal. He said his group would not support a large-scale development on the beach.