Residents ready to fight Discovery Bay developer over rural trail

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 4:03am

Discovery Bay residents are gearing up for a fight over what they claim is an illegal land grab on a popular hiking and cycling trail for an alleged luxury housing development.

The residents plan to seek legal advice before writing to the Islands District Office and the Agricultural and Fisheries Conservation Department.

Yesterday, about 50 people rallied on the trail, which leads to the nearby Trappist Monastery and over the hills to Mui Wo.

Hong Kong Resort (HKR), the Lantau town's developer, said on Friday that the trail had been closed to protect its private property and the public's safety during construction work, of which it did not give details.

It also said the trail was not an official one and that the government had confirmed the work complied with the land lease.

However, residents argued that the footpath had existed for years and so residents had right of access under Common Law.

"The trail was there even before the community was built here in Discovery Bay … it has been retained by the people for decades," said resident Andrew Burns. He added that according to the land grant, construction on all hiking and riding tracks in the area had to be approved by the Agricultural and Fisheries Conservation Department.

He said the residents had been given no prior notice of the construction or explanation of what it would be.

They suspect the sudden blockage of the trail is for the development of 5,000 square metres of land to provide more than 20 individual houses.

The group obtained a layout plan for such a development from the Lands Department, a 2010 supplement to which included provision for a golf course and country club, although that plan was later withdrawn and another submitted.

"Nothing between the department and the developer has any transparency and the plan keeps changing," said Burns.

The residents believe the construction probably did not have prior approval "They [HKR] are happy to create wealth, but not happy to provide us with the amenities we need," said Zara Horner, another resident.

A petition page will be set up on Facebook, calling for the trail's re-opening.

HKR could not be reached for comment.