Plan for green-belt site misses wood for the trees: campaigners

Forest could be fung shui wood in 20 years, says campaigner - but government is planning flats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 3:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 7:45am

A regenerating forest of 3,000 mature trees will be killed if the government insists on rezoning a green-belt site in Tai Po to build flats, a green group says.

The Conservancy Association says the government understated the ecological value of the 4.8 hectare site between Sha Lo Tung Road and Ting Kok Road in drawing up its proposal.

"If the trees were left untouched for a decade they would form a secondary forest and might become a fung shui wood in another decade," the association's assistant campaign manager, Roy Ng Hei-man, said.

The site was put into the government land sales programme this year before rezoning approval had been granted by the Town Planning Board.

Aimed at creating a private development with 620 flats in seven-storey buildings, the plan is being exhibited by the board for public consultation until next Wednesday.

Ng called for a tree survey, saying the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department had understated the importance of the site when advising the Planning Department on the rezoning proposal.

In a paper submitted for the board's discussion, the department said the site was largely a "plantation woodland" that was dominated by exotic trees. But Ng said the land was well covered by mature trees in the northeast and southern areas.

In its inspections, the association found some 3,000 mature trees about 30 years old growing on the site, which had developed multiple layers including big-canopied trees together with shrubs and mosses.

Local species of conservation importance included incense trees, Rhodoleia and Common Tutcheria. Fruit trees like hog plum were also identified.

"The chief executive said the government would only build on green-belt areas with little greenery. Is he breaking his promise?" Ng asked.

Chau Kwai-cheong, a geography professor at Chinese University and a planning board member, said building on green-belt land was a major policy change that should require an extensive public consultation.

"The function of green-belt land is to prevent urban sprawl," Chau said. "One shouldn't argue that a green-belt site could be developed because of its low conservation value."