Hong Kong

Board rejects Henderson delay over wetlands

By Ming Yeung (HK Edition)
Updated: 2010-12-11 08:19
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The Town Planning Board (TPB) has unanimously rejected an application by Henderson Land for a three-year extension on its right to develop a 139-hectare wetland area in Nam Sang Wai, Yuen Long.

The right to development had been granted to Henderson Land by the Town Planning Appeal Board (TPAB) more than a decade ago. In the meantime the land has sat idle, public awareness of conservation and wetland conservation has grown.

Henderson Land had sought the extension so that it could revise its building plan. The company wanted to build 2,250 residential units and a nine-hole golf course, downsized from the original proposal for an 18-hole course.

The modified plan was significantly different from the approved original.

A district planning officer, Amy Cheung, said Henderson Land's revised plan, submitted in September, cut the golf course from 43 hectares to 10 hectares. She said the realigned road and building layouts were unacceptable, pointing out that under the guidelines for granting extension, only minor changes are permitted.

"For similar ecologically sensitive developments in Wo Shang Wai and Fung Lok Wai where the environmental impact assessment were done in six months and one and a half years respectively, it is difficult for us to understand why the applicant cannot finish the similar task in 14 years," Cheung said.

The official noted the development period had already been extended three times and that the department had made it clear on the third application that it would be the last extension to be approved.

Henderson Land had fulfilled only three of 27 conditions attached to the planning approval. Meanwhile, the revisions the company made in the master layout plan failed to satisfy several departments.

The government also rebuked Henderson Land for stating it needed the extension to give the company more time to deal with government departments and environmental NGOs. The board said those concerns should have been addressed earlier, not near the end of the application deadline.

If Henderson re-applies to develop Nam Sang Wai, its application will be required to comply with updated and tightened environmental standards.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, spokesman for the Planning Department Christine Tse Kin-ching said, "They could not guarantee that there was a reasonable chance they would complete the approved scheme once they had been approved to have another three-year extension."

Tse added that Henderson could now ask the TPAB to review the decision within 21 days should the company choose not to accept the ruling.

A spokesman for Henderson Land said the company would study the reasons for rejection before making decision for their next step.

China Daily

(HK Edition 12/11/2010 page1)