The government may face a legal challenge from green groups if it approves the encroachment of a landfill extension on Clear Water Bay Country Park. The groups say the Country Parks Ordinance appears to forbid this. Central to the dispute is whether the spirit of the ordinance, enacted in 1976 to protect 40 per cent of the land from development, would be violated, and under what legal mechanism the encroachment could be allowed. Green groups will meet today to discuss ways to oppose the move, which may include a media campaign, complaints to the Ombudsman, or seeking a judicial review. The groups' warning came after the Advisory Council on the Environment recommended that a permit be issued to the Environmental Protection Department for the Tseung Kwan O landfill extension into a 5 hectare area in the park. Last year, the Country Parks Board, an advisory body to the director of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), also endorsed the extension on condition that the encroachment was temporary and the site would be returned after restoration. One activist said there was no provision in the ordinance for approving non-conforming land use in the parks without changing their boundaries. A judicial review in 1992 of the development of a golf course in Sha Lo Tung ruled that the government had relied on a wrong section of the law for its approval, saying that it applied to proposed country parks, not already established ones. Since then it has remained uncertain what mechanism officials have used to approve other non-conforming land use in country parks. In 1993, the ombudsman at the time, Arthur Garcia, also queried the legality of the government approving the previous Tseung Kwan O landfill extension of 18 hectares into Clear Water Bay Country Park and called for a review of the ordinance. The activist said the only sound and proven way under the ordinance to make the encroachment 'legal' was removal of the affected area from the gazetted boundary of the country park by the Chief Executive in Council, which would at the same time allow proper public consultation. 'This is an option [that is] open but the government just chooses not to take it. Such an option can allow the landfill to be located there while protecting the integrity of the country parks,' he said. The activist said the green groups were less against the need for a landfill extension than in favour of a proper procedure to approve the encroachment. 'It is much preferable to going to the law. Sometimes even [if] you have a good cause, you just fail and it costs money.' A spokesman for the AFCD said yesterday that the Country and Marine Parks Authority had yet to form an opinion on the encroachment proposal. 'It will do so after taking into account all relevant factors, including the advice of the Country and Marine Parks Board and any applicable legislative provisions,' the spokesman said.