• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 8:14am
NewsHong Kong

Heung Yee Kuk leader backs idea of country park flats

Lau Wong-fat urges review of protected areas, saying homes could be built on less ecologically sensitive land to ease city's housing shortage

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 5:06am

Rural strongman Lau Wong-fat has suggested flats could be built in certain areas of country parks to ease the housing shortage.

He called for a review of the size of the parks, but rejected a suggestion that land allocated to indigenous villagers be rezoned to boost the supply of homes.

There's no universal standard for setting the size of country parks. It would depend on the local context to decide its proportion

Lau, chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk, said a review would help the government strike a balance between protecting the countryside and addressing the soaring demand for flats. He also said private land inside parks should be released to build more flats.

"There's no universal standard for setting the size of country parks. It would depend on the local context to decide its proportion," Lau said yesterday.

His comments came two days after Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po floated the controversial idea of building flats in country parks, which was seen as a radical departure from the chief executive's pledge during his election campaign to protect parks from development.

Lau echoed Chan's view that flats could be considered in ecologically less sensitive areas of the parks. "For land [in parks] that is worth protecting, the government should specify them and compensate the owners if they are privately owned."

But he rejected outright the idea of allowing the rezoning of village land reserved for indigenous villagers to build homes. He said: "The government has plenty of land. How come it is eyeing privately owned land?"

And he expressed disappointment at the administration's failure to meet demand for homes from indigenous villagers, comparing it to the scramble to find land for urban dwellers.

Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee agreed that country parks could be downsized. He said reducing the parks by one per cent could provide land to house more than 100,000 people.

But such ideas were criticised by ex-officials, including former planning director Peter Pun Kwok-shing and former Observatory director Lam Chiu-ying.

"The way we decided a country park's boundary is not science or derived from calculations," Pun said. "But I won't say it's arbitrary. We consulted the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department and other experts."

Factors taken into account included the need to protect water catchments, trees and animals, and preservation of the topography. "We need a study to justify why we need to redraw the boundaries," he said.

Lam, who helped Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying formulate the environmental policies in his election manifesto, likened the idea of building flats in country parks to a cancer cell. "If you give away 100 square feet now, later you will ask for 100 square feet more. Ultimately, it will destroy the original aim of having country parks, which is to enable the public to enjoy nature."

Green areas, including woodland, wetland, barren land and country parks, make up 70 per cent of the city's land. Country parks alone make up 40 per cent.

The new administration has relaxed its planning rules to allow flats encroaching upon green belts and open space.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Yes, heads you win, tails we lose ...
So, in your view, the land is yours and you bear the construction costs. I am no expert at this but from what I have read over the years, land is granted from the Government after a descendant of an indigenous villager applies for it and allows him to build a 'small house. That person then most likely gleefully pays for the construction cost and either sells or rents it out for a windfall. If the only wish is to live in the village with parents and relatives, IRDHK's suggestion seems an excellent alternative.
This whole debate has been badly handled by the government (again) by directly asking if we should take up country park land for housing. In the England, with so much more land, has 13% of land under green belts set up in the 1940s, of which the most famous is around London.
It recently has streamlined planning to allow "sustainable development" which has allowed some developments in green belts. This is in recognition of the fact that you must allow some adaptation in response to the housing needs of the UK.
And yes, at the same time London has redeveloped run down areas (including its docks). HK with 40-70% (depending on who's figures) under country parks and much higher population density and lacking a large hinterland/country side, should also do both, redeveloping industrial sites and consider some development in green areas where local needs are greatest.
They should also end it with those already born. Hong Kong cannot manage to keep this going for another 40 years. It should end today. Also why do they each get their own 3 level building. Why can't they build an apartment block and each get a 800sq foot apartment. Will use allot less space and still give them a place to live that is far bigger than most people in HK.
Why doesn't the government speed up the permits to allow decrepit, unused factory buildings in old industrial areas to be used for residential purposes? Instead of touching the country parks, converting land use in industrial areas will definitely help alleviate the demand for housing. Hong Kong is already a huge squeeze and our quality of life goes down as over-crowding intensifies everywhere. Our country parks are the one place where we can breathe clean air and more importantly, find peace and quiet. If the building encroachment starts, there will be no end to the spread of concrete, high-rises and bad traffic. Leave the country parks alone and don't let the "cancer" start.
I would not underestimate or slag the Country Parks Board
unlike the Advisory Panel on Rubber Stamping Govt Mal Conceived Environmental Affairs Decisions I think this lot deserve some credence
Membership (1 September 2013 to 31 August 2015)
Mr. TANG King-shing, GBS, PDSM

Non-official members
Mr. CHAN Ka-chun
Professor CHIU Lai-har, Rebecca, JP
Mr. CHOW Kwok-keung, Johnny
Professor CHU Lee-man
Ms. Suzanne M. GENDRON
Dr. HAU Chi-hang
Honourable HO Chun-yin, Steven
Ms. H UI Mei-sheung, Tennessy, JP
Ms. KWAN Sau-wan
Mr. LAM Chung-lun, Billy, GBS, JP
Mr. LEE Chung-ming, Eric
Dr. LI Shing-foon, Eric
Ms. LO Po-man
Ms. MA Miu-wah, Katherine
Dr. MAN Chi-sum, JP
Mr. MO Ka-hung, Joseph
Dr. NG Cho-nam, BBS, JP
Ms. SO Ka Man
Mr. TANG Tat-chi, William
Ms. WONG Lai-yin, Idy
One final point should you read these comments today. Nobody questions the rights of families to live together. My wife's brother lives with his parents, his wife and his children (3 generations together) in a small flat in Kowloon. This is the reality of modern day Hong Kong living. Why do you feel you are entitled to have 3 generations of your family living in 3 separate houses of 2100 square foot each? Why is my family in Kowloon not entitled to the same deal?
Agree, should enforce the 'dings' for actual use in village, rather than for profit.
However you should note it is very hard to build outside village zones, let alone a 1km radius.
Agreed, try finding an industrial building for genuine industrial use in this place! it is getting more and more difficult as each year passes. Rents are going towards office levels.
Mr. Lau Wong fat - see 44 comments all against you. 44 means death. Get the message.



SCMP.com Account