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  • Apr 18, 2014
  • Updated: 5:10am
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HOUSING

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.

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HK-Explorer
Lau Wong-fat is no more than a gangster who will push Hong Kong down the toilet to make a buck.
He is a segregationist who wants to create the rich who are long disconnected decedents of indigenous people and everyone else.
Reminiscent of apartheid that occurred Africa and USA 70 years ago. We should rid Hong Kong of these segmentation based on birth polices (truly is born with golden spoon rules that steal fromt he people of Hong Kong)
sman
Apartheid ? You have no idea what that is.
More like ethnic cleansing.
But by the British government who let a flood of mainlanders in (and those are now 'Hong Kongers) so there were no jobs for the locals.
Have you ever asked why they are "long disconected decedents [sic]" left. Its because they were pushed out because of this "mainlanders" flood. And then the government stole their land by paying a pittance for land resumption and not letting them build outside their village zones. If we owned much of central London, we would be fabously wealthy - as it is only some (not all indigenous villagers) who have land within the village zones are money, and ever fewer wealthy because of it.
Maybe it should not be based on birth policy. We should've allowed all who own the land to do what they want. The villagers would've then built on the land themselves or sold it at fair market value to these immigrants. But the government did not allow this as they wanted the money for themselves. HK is one of the few places in the world where you pay so much tax to build.
Please try to understand the others perspective/history before you use words like apartheid. But again you are another "Hong Konger" who cries unfair at everything.
whyso
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.
HK-Explorer
There are no empty factory buildings. That is a misconception that some people have. There is such a lack of office towers that all factory buildings are already offices, storage etc..
If there really were old empty factory buildings to you not expect their owners will be out in full force pushing for changes in policy?
No, the factory building owners are staying very quiet as they are already aware factory buildings were secretly converted over the last 10 years into office buildings. You will find occupancy of factory buildings is close to 95% as they are cheaper than other locations.
pjp
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.
daily
Anything this guy says or does is purely for his own beneficial interest...........he is no better (actually just as bad) than Paul Chan............it's people like these that makes HK a worse place than ever before.
p.rennat
I was typically amused by the comments of Paul Chan concerning the building of flats in the Country Parks of Hong Kong. Indeed this suggestion has generated a lot of (adverse) comments in the on-line version of this newspaper. First of all I would like to note that Mr Chan got his facts totally wrong. Although about 75% of the 1104 square km of Hong Kong is countryside, only 44239 hectares comprise designated Country Parks and special areas: i.e. 40%, not 70%. For the Development Secretary to make such a mistake is inexcusable. On reading through the various on-line comments, the suggestion by IRDHK appears to be much more useful than Paul Chan’s attempt to destroy the biodiversity in Hong Kong. Namely, he suggests the removal of the small house policy for all of those born from now onwards and to amend the present policy so that only 10 storey buildings, each comprising 4 flats per storey, can be built. Each eligible person would be apportioned one 800 sq ft flat to live in, and they would not be granted permission to sell the flat or the land. Wake up, Mr Chan. After decades without any planning, the New Territories have become an ugly mess. There are hectares and hectares of land for development therein, but the Government does not have the courage to go ahead and do it. Why not? It sickens me to travel in the New Territories and witness the waste, pollution and unsightliness, which contrast so sharply with developed areas of Hong Kong in Kowloon and HK Island.
johnyuan
Now just a day blinked in our eye that we hear everyone under the sun from present and past officials, property developer, SCMP commentators and its readers jumping into respective declaration on Country Park’s fate. The responses are strong but I have a deep feeling that we are playing in a sandbox. What worries me most is my feeling at the end just being a mirage. The trial balloon hoisted by the Development Secretary is just a formality for the real intent in gathering supports to play out in the public.
….
There should be a vigorous debate as SCMP today’s editorial has suggested. I will say get rid the sandbox and get some mature understanding with intellect to rule again the fate of our country parks.
XYZ
Well, at least Mr. Lau gives clarity to the issue. If he's for it, then I'm against it. Check, please!
chuchu59
Reason being anything Lau says or does is pure greed on the side of indigenous villagers and harmful to the rest of Hong Kong.

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