Disco Bay work is 'unauthorised'
The developer of the Discovery Bay resort has carried out allegedly unauthorised work on government land near private lots in a coastal-protection area, apparently to turn the area into a horseback-riding ground for its soon-to-be opened hotel.
The government land was not only widened but dug up to lay an underground cable connecting a commercial building in Discovery Bay North Plaza and the protected area.
About 100 metres of cable might have been laid - it is now covered in a trench - through areas zoned for conservation and coastal protection in Sam Pak, just north of the plaza that opened in 2010.
The developer denies the works are unauthorised. The Lands Department, however, says otherwise.
It said the department detected unauthorised clearance of government land, including the excavation of a trench. 'Land control actions are being taken against the unauthorised activities on government land,' a spokeswoman said.
Excavation of government land requires a permit, which can be issued at a cost of HK$3,060 for digging on land that is not a street maintained by the Highways Department. Unauthorised excavation is a criminal offence liable to a maximum HK$5,000 fine and six months' jail.
The spokeswoman said it had not received any proposal from the lot owners and would closely monitor any development on the private lots near the government land.
Although the works affected areas with sensitive land-use zoning, the Planning Department said it had no enforcement power over the coastal-protection area because the site was not covered by any development permission plan that confers it the authority to deal with breaches.
A Discovery Bay outline zoning plan introduced in 2005 - decades after colonial officials granted the land to the company in 1976 for just HK$61 million in land premiums - only indicates the government's planning intention, meaning the plan is toothless and unenforceable by the board.
According to Discovery Bay residents, lands officers were alerted to the works early last month, but officers only erected warning signs and notices at the site at the month's end.
The Hong Kong Resort Company, a subsidiary of HKR International, also erected notices at the site, claiming to be the owner and warning against trespassing. The company also said it had the right to close any areas at any time.
In a reply to Post inquiries, the company rejected allegations its works were illegal. 'HKR is not aware that its contractor has ever violated any government requirements when carrying out the works,' a spokeswoman said.
She said there were both 'crown land and private-land lots' in Sam Pak and these private lots were owned by the Hong Kong Resort Company and were outside the boundary of Discovery Bay.
'HKR is in the process of erecting timber fencing with signage declaring the ownership of these private land lots, with a view to preventing the sites from being occupied by unauthorised people,' she said.
As to whether the site would be turned into an equestrian area, she said there was no firm plan on the use of these land lots. But some workers building wooden fences around the private lots said HKR wanted to convert the site for horseback riding.
In November of last year, the firm also published a job advertisement seeking an equestrian specialist who would report to the general manager of the hotel.
Amy Yung Wing-sheung, a district councillor serving the Discovery Bay community, said the contractor had blocked the track before and created the impression that it was for government work.
'It was once blocked by dubious barriers with the Highways Department's logo on it. But the logo said it was from the division of urban Kowloon. I had no idea where they got these barriers. Discovery Bay is definitely not urban Kowloon.'
She said residents had never been consulted about any equestrian development. 'It seems like they plan to drive horse carriages along the promenade to the hotel for weddings,' she said.
Yung also feared that the developer was retrofitting some areas of commercial premises in the North Plaza as horse stables.
The amount, in Hong Kong dollars, that HKR International paid in 1976 for the exclusive right to develop all of Discovery Bay