Contractors accused of giving developer unauthorised access to Sai Kung plot Villagers in Sha Kok Mei, Sai Kung, angrily claim a major government development has been used as a 'highway to destruction' by an unknown developer to devastate part of their community. Residents say contractors working for government departments have permitted work gangs with heavy equipment to access village land. In recent days, large areas of a hillside overlooking the village have been totally cleared of vegetation. Official records show the 8,250-square-metre plot was purchased at peak prices during the 1997 real-estate boom by a company that was dissolved more than three years ago. But although the registered land owner no longer exists, villagers believe a property company plans to build a major housing complex on the site. Current ownership of the land cannot be traced through government records. When the villagers erected a fence on government land to try to prevent illegal access to the site, a man who identified himself as a lawyer arrived to talk to them about the situation. He was accompanied by a group of unidentified men. Police were called to mediate when the incident threatened to turn violent on January 14. Last Tuesday, the fence erected by the villagers was torn down and a work gang began pouring concrete down the bank of a stream that was once rich in wildlife. Village leader Harris Cheung Chi-yun said residents became alarmed two weeks ago when workmen began felling trees at the site and ripping down ancient stone terraces. 'We've heard that 40 houses will be erected,' Mr Cheung said. 'Some of us villagers put up a fence on government land to stop the workers moving in earthmoving equipment. But it was torn down. It is beyond disheartening.' Residents say they have complained to police, the local district office, the Environmental Protection Department and other government agencies. Environment officials evaded questions about the site. Many residents are now too scared to talk about what is happening in the village. They say the trouble is rooted in a village-improvement programme being carried out for the Home Affairs Department by contractors who were employed by the Highways Department. Under the project, a road and footpath would be built 200 metres from the main Tai Mong Tsai Road to Sha Kok Mei village, along with a bridge over the stream. Environmentalists including the Sai Kung Association have criticised that part of the $12.7 million project, under which the waterway has been boxed and channelled into a concrete chute. The project would also transform extensive areas of public land into car parks with 48 metered spaces. While the work has flattened the landscape along the stream bed, it has also opened up access to a large area of land on the far side of Sha Kok Mei. The area comprises a large swathe of property overlooking the valley. Until the project cleared land on either side of the creek, there was no road access to the site. The Lands Department and the Sai Kung District Office said there had been no application to build on the site. 'If that's so, why are workmen laying illegal bridges and why has the entire site been cleared?' asked Mr Cheung who lives a few metres from where a bridge was erected. Village representative Lok Wai-man said residents are angry that workers employed by unknown people suddenly appeared in their village and chopped down all trees on the site. After numerous complaints, highways officials agreed to stop vehicles and workers getting to the land through the Highways Department worksite. Sai Kung District Office and the District Lands Office promised to clear illegal structures and building materials from the site. They also said they would fence off government land. This would prevent the earthmoving equipment from getting to the area.