Village parking abuses 'rampant'
Lax regulation of village housing in the New Territories is encouraging unauthorised road widening and extensions, encroachment on government land and even criminal intimidation, an environment planning group warns.
Designing Hong Kong says new housing developments are increasing demand for parking space amid the supply shortage.
To address this problem, the group has urged the government not to provide land grants or building licences under its small-house policy unless developers can show that there is sufficient land provision for vehicles.
The policy, introduced in 1972, gives male indigenous residents the one-time right to build a three-storey house on a 700 sq ft area of land in their ancestral villages.
The group's study of Pan Long Wan village in Clear Water Bay found rampant unauthorised parking on government land.
While there were just 147 completed homes in the village, there were 248 cars parked overnight. About 90 per cent were parked on government land zoned for the environment, conservation, or future development.
The group found at least 14 irregularities, the most common being road extension and widening, paving of government land for parking, and slope work to create car parks.
'Reserved' signs indicated that some car parks were under management - raising concerns that someone was profiting by leasing out government land.
The Lands Department had put up warning signs to little avail, the group said. With 79 homes to be built in the village, the group fears the parking situation will worsen. Disputes over illegal rent collection for parking were not uncommon in Sai Kung, the group said. But victims are reluctant to come forward due to threats from car park operators.
In another village, a couple were warned that they would 'forever regret' refusing to continue paying HK$500 a month for a car park on land thought to be government-owned. They had paid the fee for three years to an influential figure in the village.
Paul Zimmerman, the group's chief executive, said poor enforcement of the small-house policy, which does not regulate the use of roads and parking, had caused many problems which the government had neglected. 'The [Lands] department has failed to acknowledge that the small-house policy would lead to disorderly development, unauthorised land use, social discontent and even criminal behaviour,' he said.
'The government has condoned this situation and will only act when people lodge a complaint.'
He said the department should scrutinise access and parking provisions before granting villagers land or a licence to build a house, and that it had a responsibility to create an overall plan for village development.
Dr Yau Wing-kwong, a member of the Town Planning Board, said poor planning in villages was the inevitable outcome of fragmented private land ownership.