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Lamma Island marina bid is thrown out

South China Morning Post – Dec. 17, 2011

Luxury scheme for flats and yachts in green area would set undesirable precedent, say planners

A bold development plan in an ecologically sensitive part of Lamma Island was rejected yesterday by town planners, who feared its approval would set an undesirable precedent.

The luxury residential and marine project, Baroque on Lamma, was led by a Town Planning Board member, Cheng Yan-kee. He is the chief executive of the company in charge of the development and was one of the project representatives who met the board yesterday.

The Planning Department said Cheng had declared his conflict of interest.

The project would have covered more than 85 hectares of green and marine areas in Tung O Wan and included plans for an international yachting base with 500 berths. The scheme encroached on conservation areas and would have needed a vast, 78-hectare slice of government land.

It was resurrected in March after being rejected by the Development Opportunities Office last year. The office facilitates private proposals that are deemed worthwhile.

Under the amended plan submitted to the Town Planning Board, the development density was reduced by lowering residential buildings and hotel blocks from six or seven storeys to no more than four, providing 900 flats and 120 hotel rooms.

But the proposal failed to win the support of board members and government departments.

“Approval of the application would set an undesirable precedent for similar applications in the south of Lamma and would attract similar applications for development in conservation-related zones,” the Planning Department said.

A spokeswoman for the board said the project was incompatible with the area’s conservation status and its excessive scale would ruin the site’s rural character and threaten ecological assets in the island’s south.

Apart from the loss of farmland, the marina development would involve reclamation of about nine hectares, resulting in the loss of fisheries habitat, including nursing grounds for some commercial species.

The Lands Department also said in the board’s paper that it did not support the project as it involved a substantial portion of government land, some burial grounds and sites of archaeological interest.

Private land in the hands of the developer only accounts for 8.4 per cent of the development’s total area.

The department said the prevailing land policy does not allow land exchange of this scale.

The proposal sparked controversy, and green groups raised objections, fearing the massive development would be a threat to rare species in the area. The Romer’s tree frog, which is endangered, is found in the affected conservation areas, while there is a nesting ground for the endangered green turtle just 200 to 300 metres away.

Guy Shirra
Sai Kung

M: 9307 2041

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