Tai Long Sai Wan residents call for judicial review on country park plan

Proposal to include their homes in protected area prompts Tai Long Sai Wan residents to seek judicial review as listing looms

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 4:45am

Tai Long Sai Wan villagers are one step closer to taking the government to court over a plan to include their Sai Kung homes in a proposed country park after they secured legal assistance for a judicial review.

The legal challenge, funded by the Legal Aid Department, will come as the government is scheduled to gazette the country park proposal on October 11 and introduce a legislative amendment on October 16.

If there is no opposition from lawmakers, the area will formally become a country park and become subject to the strictest land-use zoning.

But North Sai Kung Rural Committee vice-chairman Joseph Mo Ka-hung said he wanted the lawmakers to refrain from endorsing the proposal before the outcome of the judicial review.

The review will aim to overthrow the government's plan to turn 17 hectares of land, including privately owned sites in Sai Wan village, into part of the Sai Kung East Country Park.

The village, accessible only by sea or on foot, is completely enclosed by the park, which was established in 1978.

"Talks are being held between the villagers and lawyers over the legal challenge," Mo said. "We hope to file the writ in court before the end of next month."

A spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, which manages the city's country parks, would not comment directly on the legal challenge, only saying the department would allow lawmakers enough time to scrutinise the park proposal.

Lau Wong-fat, Heung Yee Kuk chairman, said the New Territories indigenous inhabitant body would support the villagers' fight.

Villagers in Sai Wan fear the park proposal will compromise their rights to build small houses.

If their land was within the park, they said new houses would require approval from the Country and Marine Park Board, which they expected would make building more difficult than now.

The board earlier endorsed the park proposal after a public consultation exercise. They had also heard objections raised by opponents of the plan.

But it believed that designating the area as a country park would enhance the overall park management and protect the natural landscape of the scenic beach and its surroundings which were defaced by illegal excavation works back in 2010.