A rural group yesterday added its voice to calls for the opening up of restricted areas on the border, a day after officials spoke of possible plans to expand the Shataukok checkpoint. The New Territories Association of Societies called on the Government to remove border restrictions on the Hong Kong side, saying this would speed cross-border development. 'In view of our increasingly close ties with the mainland, fewer restrictions mean better links with the Pearl River Delta area and a more competent Hong Kong,' an association spokesman said. The group's calls came after Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the Government was studying the possibility of expanding the checkpoint at Shataukok - one of the four on the border - to allow a shuttle bus service to run. But she said the bureau had no plans for opening up other restricted areas. She made the comments on Monday in response to a caller who said the border security policy was too stringent. The restricted areas, stretching about 32 square kilometres from Mai Po to Shataukok, are out of bounds for non-residents, and people who want to enter have to apply for permits in advance. While Shataukok can handle a daily maximum of 12,000 commuters and 7,000 vehicles, only 3,000 people and 2,000 cars cross the checkpoint each day. 'We urge the Government to allow for bus and taxi services at the checkpoints between Sheung Shui and Shenzhen to alleviate traffic at Lowu,' the spokesman said. Chief town planner Alfred Lau Yiu-kwong said a study was being carried out to assess the environmental impact, 'so any move to open up the border would not be likely within the next few years,' he said.