A slope in Magazine Gap Road, Mid-Levels, is being covered by concrete despite Buildings Department guidelines that Hong Kong Island slopes should look as natural as possible - and there is nothing officials can do because the slope is privately owned. Work on government-owned slopes must adhere to strict greening laws, with the use of shotcrete - concrete that is sprayed over an area - used only as a last resort. But the greening guidelines for privately owned slopes cannot be enforced, because they are merely recommendations, so residents can opt to cover a slope with concrete instead of planting trees, shrubs and grass. A Buildings Department spokeswoman confirmed the guidelines for residents were not legally binding and said there were no plans to change this. She said the guidelines were introduced in 2002 'to promote good practice in landscape treatment for man-made slopes and retaining walls', but the department was powerless if an owner wanted to use concrete as long as the work complied with the Buildings Ordinance. An update of the department's guidelines in August last year described the use of shotcrete on slopes as unpleasant and harmful to the environment and said the public often complained it was ugly. In 2008, the department declared the slope at 21 Magazine Gap Road a dangerous hillside after a landslide. The slope's owner commissioned ESA Consulting Engineers to submit a plan for remedial work. A proposal to green the slope by hydroseeding, which uses a slurry of seed and mulch to inhibit soil erosion, was approved early this year. However, a few months later, the plan was changed to cover the slope with concrete and, as it complied with the safety requirements set by the department, this was approved in June and work started last month. A spokeswoman for ESA refused to comment on why the owner wanted to concrete the slope. She said the slope work should be finished in two months. She could not give an estimate of how much it cost to concrete the slope in comparison to planting vegetation. 'It depends on the geometry,' she said. 'There is no strict answer.' The slope's owner, Dr Philip Leong, could not be reached. Melanie Moore, spokeswoman for the Lung Fu Shan environmental concern group and a resident of Old Peak Road, said several slopes in the residential areas leading up to The Peak had been covered in concrete in the past two years. 'It's a pretty prevalent practice in Hong Kong,' she said. 'People believe it's cheaper and easier to maintain a concrete slope, but it's not. It's a huge eyesore. People are getting really tired of seeing concrete and the destruction of the natural environment. Moore said the slope at 21 Magazine Gap Road was 'a perfect example in that it's entirely safe to green the slope'. 'The government can easily change the Buildings Ordinance and incorporate the greening guidelines,' she said.