But new policy limits activity to least fragile parts of sites Development will be possible on ecologically valuable private land under a new conservation policy announced yesterday, but only on the least sensitive parts of the sites. The developers will also have to promise to manage the remaining land to enhance its ecological value. The policy comes with the announcement of the top 12 ecologically important sites, scored from 0 to 3 based on their naturalness, biodiversity and species rarity. Most of these sites are privately owned and outside country parks, without proper land use zoning. Two schemes for these sites - public-private partnership (PPP) and management agreements - will be launched next month. They will offer incentives to landowners, developers and green groups to start pilot projects. Property projects at these sensitive sites may be allowed if developers come up with proposals that could enhance and maintain the ecological values of the sites while using the less sensitive and small part of the site for development. In exceptional cases, land exchanges could also be accepted if there are enough justifications. The idea will be similar to Cheung Kong's proposed Fung Lok Wai development, which confines its residential blocks on a few fish ponds while conserving the remaining ponds in Yuen Long. Under the scheme, developers have to demonstrate their proposal is sustainable in the long term and that resources are earmarked to achieve the conservation purposes. But they will still have to get Town Planning Board and Lands Department approval if land use has to be changed or the lease modified. They also have to pass environmental impact assessment. Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung said the government would support projects that could satisfy the criteria and put conservation as the top priority. 'If these sites are left idle, they might be further degraded. We will offer flexibility under that scheme to enhance the sites' ecological value and provide an opportunity for limited development,' she said. Dr Liao expected the government's blessing for the projects might clear some obstacles in getting them approved by the Town Planning Board. Each of these proposals will be vetted by an interdepartmental taskforce, while the Advisory Council on the Environment will be consulted. All PPP proposals must be approved by the Executive Council. The Environment and Conservation Fund has also earmarked $5 million for voluntary conservation projects up to three years at these sites. Non-government organisations and landowners could enter into management agreements to conserve the sites and propose ways to sustain their projects, such as eco-tourism. No ceiling has been set on the amount of funding. Dr Liao said some developers had expressed interest in PPPs and suggested innovative proposals but she gave no further details. Applications can be made from December to May 31.