• Fri
  • Nov 28, 2014
  • Updated: 10:39am
NewsHong Kong
CONSERVATION

Country park building plan cuts off coastal family trail

Path lies under proposed village house, and with the sea on one side and a steep slope on the other, walkers would hit a dead end

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 April, 2014, 6:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 April, 2014, 4:42pm

A trail popular with families looks set to be blocked off if officials give the green light to a village house proposal within the Plover Cove Country Park in the northeastern New Territories

The building plan involves a private plot in Kai Kuk Shue Ha village, Luk Keng. The site is on a narrow strip of land, between Starling Inlet and a steep slope. It lies about 100 metres inside the park boundary. It could mean the 2.2 kilometre Fung Hang Family Walk would be cut off unless the house was built elsewhere, warned one concerned local resident, Dr William Butcher.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, refused to comment, saying the proposal - filed with the Lands Department in late 2012 - had not been submitted to it.

With the government recently incorporating more villages into the country park areas, the issue of private land rights in the city's beauty spots has been subject to heated debate. Earlier this year, Tai Long Sai Wan residents blockaded another footpath in protest against plans to incorporate their village into a Sai Kung country park.

It is not known who the applicant for the Luk Keng house is but, according to the Lands Registry, the site is owned by a Chu Man-yuk, who was gifted the property in 2012 by Chu Hon-keung, who has a registered address in Britain.

The Lands Department said that the case was still under consideration.

A previous application for a village house in the same locality was approved by the department in 2004 after meeting no objections from the Country and Marine Parks Board, which has to approve development within protected areas.

However, during a meeting of the board at the time, concerns were expressed that the trail might be blocked off. The minutes show the District Lands Office assured members that the trail would be rerouted.

That village house has never been built.

The applicant, Chu Man-chong, who gave the same address as Chu Man-yuk, has sought a land exchange and has paid the fee to extend the three-year completion deadline more than once.

Butcher said he could not see how the seaside footpath could be preserved without land reclamation. The proposed house was just several feet from the sea during high tide, he added. Starling Inlet remains a restricted area because of its proximity to the mainland border.

"Everyone who comes here, even very young children, spontaneously says 'very beautiful'. It would be catastrophic for nature lovers if this little corner of paradise was destroyed or undermined," said Butcher.

Chu Wai-kuen, the village representative said he was unaware of the building application but believed that something had to be done to reroute the trail. "They should build a road along the coast to bypass the private land," he said.

Tsang Yuk-on, who sits on the Sha Tau Kok Rural Committee, said private landowners' rights should be respected, even when they had offered access through their properties in the past.

He said the North District Council was considering building a HK$20 million causeway along the coast that would connect neighbouring Fung Hang village with the northern section of the family walk.

Dr Ng Cho-nam, a parks board member, said it was an unfortunate dilemma that the trail fell on private land. "This is a frustrating situation," he added.

He believed that the property owner might be obliged to find an alternative path under legal provisions on rights of way, which guarantee public access where that access has been available for a certain period of time.

Plover Cove Country Park was designated in 1979. It is not known how old the trail is. There are hundreds of small houses within country parks, and private land is believed to be spread over 19,000 lots, covering 460 hectares.

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This article is now closed to comments

John Adams
'It is not known who the applicant for the Luk Keng house is but, according to the Lands Registry, the site is owned by a Chu Man-yuk, who was gifted the property in 2012 by Chu Hon-keung, who has a registered address in Britain.'
.
WHO HAS REGISTERED ADDRESS IN BRITAIN ? !
.
What on earth (speaking literally ) does this have to do with the NT - indigenous villager's house policy ?
MingBaakMei
Surely where a 'public' footpath has been established and a 'right' to cross the land has never been challenged then the law of "Adverse Possession" must come into effect.
This is what the Law Reform Commission's web site has to say about it:
"...The main provisions on adverse possession can be found in the Limitation Ordinance (Cap 347). Except in the case of Government land for which the limitation period is 60 years, no action to recover landed property is allowed after 12 years from the date upon which the right of action accrued. Time starts to run when the owner has been dispossessed of his land and the adverse possessor has taken possession of the land..."
In this case the 'adverse possessor' is the public at large.
OC2S
I know it's contentious but how is the gifting and development of this land in any way consistent with the small house policies?
DinGao
If the SCMP map is correct, we are not talking about a path but a partly paved track used by vehicles and pedestrians to access the village, not a footpath. Morgan M's points are interesting but I don't think the courts would agree that the public generally can argue adverse possession, only an individual or individuals.

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