Conservationists will seek a judicial review in their latest effort to block a man-made beach project at Tai Po after the government rejected their arguments that the environmental impact report was misleading.
This follows a letter from assistant director of environmental protection Tang Kin-fai, received by the coalition of green groups yesterday, that said "no case has been made out for the exercise of power" under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance.
The ordinance empowers the Environmental Protection Department to revoke a project's permit if the study contains misleading or false information.
The group in November asked the department to cancel the permit issued to the Civil Engineering and Development Department for the HK$200 million project. "We regret the unscientific decision and officials' arrogance, because we submitted a lot of information, but officials gave no explanation why they rejected us," coalition member Peter Li Siu-man said. He said the group would now seek legal aid to mount a judicial review against the department's dismissal of their arguments.
The letter came just two days after the Ombudsman told the coalition that it would investigate alleged government malpractice over the project.
The coalition is fighting to stop a muddy tidal coastline at Lung Mei from being transformed into a 200-metre artificial seaside with room for 4,000 swimmers.
The Civil Engineering and Development Department said last night it would not award the work contract yet but would wait for another decision by the chief executive, which could override the department's. The tender closes in June.
The group has requested the chief executive, under the same ordinance, revoke the permit as the project would be more prejudicial to public health and the ecosystem than expected at the time of issuing the work permit.
More than 200 marine species, including some rarely found in Hong Kong, have been recorded by volunteers at the rocky tidal habitat of the site - more than were reported in the study.
The government plans to move the marine organisms to similar habitats nearby.
The opponents also queried whether heavy metals in the water had been assessed and if sufficient consideration had been given to alternative sites.