Planners have thrown out proposals to build flats on two green-belt sites in a blow to the government's push for new flats to ease Hong Kong's housing shortage. The schemes in Tai Po, designed to provided 1,300 private homes, collapsed after the Town Planning Board for the first time rejected the government's rezoning plans to meet its new homes target yesterday. The two rejected plans were proposed for green-belt sites next to Fung Yuen village and the Nethersole Hospital, with a total area of about five hectares. The Fung Yuen site had been included in the land sales programme, a list of sites for sale to private developers. The board's rejection might trigger its removal from the programme. The board's move came after the government released details of some 150 sites selected for rezoning. The rezoning is designed to allow 40 per cent of the 480,000 new homes planned by 2019 under an ambitious target. A government official accepted the board's decision. "It's within our expectation that some rezoning plans could fail. The board's decision gives a clearer indication that it doesn't approve giving up valuable trees and ecologically sensitive sites for building homes. The government will be more careful in the upcoming land search," the official said. A board spokeswoman said the two sites were rejected as they should remain as a buffer zone around urban areas. The board's private deliberation yesterday focused on six major housing sites, intended to provide 6,350 public units and 2,875 private units. Fung Yuen is close to an area of special scientific interest and includes woodland of about 3,000 mature trees. The four remaining rezoning plans approved include a green-belt site at Lo Fai Road next to a luxury estate, Tycoon Place, despite repeated protests by local residents. One green-belt site in Tsing Yi for 740 flats was also approved. A Development Bureau spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the rejected Fung Yuen site would be removed from the land sale programme. "The government will announce the updated programme for the coming financial year by the end of this month," she said. The land sale programme may be hit with further rejections as the board has yet to consider the rezoning of six sites listed - including four in the green belt. Green Sense and the Conservancy Association, two environmental groups which had been campaigning against the rezoning of the site near Fung Yuen, welcomed the board's decision but warned that other green-belt sites were still threatened. "I am glad that the Town Planning Board was not merely acting as a rubber stamp this time, which is a rare case. This is a good start. However, there is still no comprehensive policy on the rezoning of green belts," said Roy Tam Hoi-pong, of Green Sense.