Land officials have confirmed that wooden shelves stacked in redeveloped Tung Chung village houses were urn niches and subject to a breach of lease. Indigenous villagers have been up in arms for months over the company’s apparent plan to set up an “illegal” private columbarium complex, with an estimated 30,000 niches in the five houses of Nim Yuen village. Villagers fear a columbarium would be inauspicious for the area. It would also overwhelm roads into the village with heavy traffic on days traditionally associated with tomb-sweeping, such as Ching Ming festival. The complex spans the site of seven lots built on old government leases. The district’s land office approved the reconstruction of the New Territories Exempted Houses for “personal domestic use” in 2012, the Post reported last month. A spokesman for the Lands Department yesterday said a warning letter had been issued to the owners, Uni-Creation Investments, late last month telling them to remove the structures. The department said it had breached the “offensive trades clause” written into its old government lease. Under the clause, which is often found in old government leases before the advent of many modern licensing mechanisms, owners should not operate certain “nuisance-generating or offensive trade or business on such premises”. Houses on old lots are intended for domestic, non-industrial use so they cannot be turned into private columbariums. “The owners have been given 28 days to rectify the situation, otherwise, the government will take further action to enforce the lease, including re-entry,” the spokesman said. “The warning letter has been registered at the Land Registr to alert the public of the situation.” Land records indicated Uni-Creation bought most of the lot deeds between 2006 and 2008 from the original landowners. Uni-Creation, whose director Cheng Yung-hing is also a director of Tung Chung Nim Yuen and a former Lands Department official, could not be reached for comment yesterday.