'No skyscrapers' for North District
Residents seeking to develop North District in the New Territories should be mindful of conserving local characteristics instead of blindly building skyscrapers, the planning chief told rural district councillors yesterday.
The stance drew opposition from the councillors, who said the government's emphasis on conservation stifled development of vacant land.
But the key rural players - including some from the influential Heung Yee Kuk, which looks after the interests of indigenous villagers - insisted they did not mean to provoke a confrontation with the government.
They sought to temper their response amid recent tense ties with the administration, which is taking stern action against rampant breaches of height restrictions in village houses.
At a full-house meeting in Fanling, planning director Jimmy Leung Cheuk-fai restated the government's plans to develop three new towns - Kwu Tung North, Fanling North and Ping Che/Ta Kwu Ling - for residential and industrial uses.
Leung urged residents to take preservation into account when embarking on development projects in the very green North District, including Sheung Shui and Fanling.
'We don't want every district to have the same skyscrapers,' he said. 'Each of them should have their own features preserved.'
Some councillors, echoing discontented villagers, said the government's approach slowed the pace of redeveloping their ageing villages and of developing unused land.
'The Planning Department has neglected the development of the New Territories for several decades,' kuk member Hau Chi-keung said, citing rural residents' applications for rebuilding that had been rejected.
'Why is it that developers can get approval to construct a 20- or 30-storey building, while we from the New Territories are blocked from merely building a house?'
Leung sidestepped his question, saying only that the government would keep close contact with locals before formulating rural policies.
Another councillor, Tony Tang Kun-nin, criticised the designation of two inhabited areas as protected zones: parts of the Lin Ma Hang border area; and Wu Kau Tang in Plover Cove Country Park.
Hau went on to voice his anger about an appeal from the Development Bureau - the supervisory body for Leung's department - to all villagers with illegal structures in their homes to sign up for a registration scheme for later demolition.
Leung declined make a comment on the issue, saying it was unrelated to the scope of his department's work.