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Rant: blot on the landscape

Mark Footer

 

Some construction projects in Hong Kong appear to get tied up in red tape and take forever to get built (we're looking at you, West Kowloon Cultural District) while others go up in a matter of weeks, having been subject to little rigorous regulatory oversight.

In early January, a 160-year-old Hakka terrace in Sai Kung Country Park was destroyed by its owner, who then began building three new houses. On January 23, according to a South China Morning Post report, officers from the District Lands Office conducted a site inspection and ordered the work to stop. An application to redevelop the lots had been submitted but hadn't even been considered at that point.

On February 18, in reply to an inquiry by concerned residents of the country park who had noticed that not only was work continuing, but a digger with a Highways Department logo on the side was being used on the site, a spokesman for the Sai Kung & Islands District Planning Office wrote that, "from the Town Planning Ordinance's perspective … demolition works/foundation works [are] not subject to planning permission".

Those houses are now well past the foundation stage and, as of Thursday, work on them was continuing. Any action against construction now would leave an eyesore, although it seems probable that, in five years' time, when each of the not-so-new-any-longer 700 sq ft flats is being rented out for HK$40,000 a month (or whatever astronomical sum our property market will deliver then), either more legal exemptions will have been discovered to justify it all or the owner and his wastepaper basket will still be receiving "warning" letters from the authorities.

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