The environment minister has promised to plug a planning loophole that allowed a developer to work on a private retreat at the picturesque Sai Wan beach. Edward Yau Tang-wah said a statutory zoning plan would be drafted for the sensitive site. Yau made the pledge after an inter-departmental meeting was held yesterday to sort out issues related to the work in Sai Wan, which is currently not covered by a zoning plan. It also came after it emerged that other sensitive sites such as Hoi Ha and Lai Chi Chong, which are in or near country parks, have been falling into the hands of private companies. A South China Morning Post report last week on developer Simon Lo Lin-shing's project at Sai Wan, on Sai Kung's Tai Long Wan coast, sparked a public outcry. Yau said a development permission area (DPA) plan - briefly outlining the broad land use intentions - would be drafted by the Planning Department and endorsed by the Town Planning Board. After such a DPA plan is introduced, any change in land use that is not compatible with the plan will require approval from the board. The DPA plan will be replaced within three years by an outline zoning plan that spells out detailed land use controls. But Yau did not say what initial land uses would be proposed under the DPA plan for Sai Wan, when the plan would be ready and whether similar plans would be imposed on other pocket areas. Dr Ng Cho-nam, a former Town Planning Board member, said the site could be temporarily zoned as 'undetermined' - which would virtually give the government power to reject any development. Ng also said that as the DPA plan was an administrative procedure, it could be drafted and introduced within weeks. But he feared that two ponds already formed at the Sai Wan site might be allowed to remain if the sites were zoned as agriculture. Peter Li Siu-man, campaign manger of the Conservancy Association, welcomed the DPA plan for Sai Wan and demanded the government impose such a plan at all pocket areas in or near country parks. He said the government should continue to pursue the Sai Wan case to see if anyone should be held responsible for environmental or land use breaches such as illegal excavation on government land. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department confirmed that on July 22 it had received an application to move out the bulldozers used to excavate the Sai Wan site via protected areas - the beach. A spokeswoman for the department said normally it would take three days to notify the applicant whether approval would be granted, but it had told the applicant they might need more time to process the request. 'The government is also exploring all possible actions that could be taken under the existing legislation framework and will leave no stone unturned in our investigation. Relevant departments will take the enforcement actions accordingly.' Under the Country Parks and Special Areas Regulations, it is an offence to take a vehicle into a country park without consent. Offenders could be fined up to HK$2,000 and imprisoned for three months. Tanya Chan, a Civic Party lawmaker, said the government still owed the public an answer over how the bulldozers were transported to the site without permission and whether it would take any action about that.