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Development threatens sensitive area

SCMP letter

The governments of Hong Kong and Shenzhen are pushing forward with the development of the Lok Ma Chau Loop, to optimise “land resources of this strategic location to meet the future development needs of the two cities”.

The government says that it will be used for education and hi-tech research.

The loop was formerly a fishpond area until our Hong Kong and Shenzhen administrations agreed to fill the ponds with toxic mud from the Shenzhen River. It forms an integral part of the internationally important Deep Bay ecosystem. According to the government the wetlands surrounding the loop have “very high ecological value” and “no basic infrastructure”.

The high development density will cause extra environmental problems, namely air pollution, reduced flood control, and impacts on nearby wetlands. This violates the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, which state that “intrusion of urban development into otherwise scenic and undeveloped areas must be either prevented or ameliorated” and “new environmental problems should be avoided”.

Recent private developments in the Deep Bay area have plot ratios of no more than 0.4. The two universities located in rural areas with comparable size to the loop, namely Chinese University and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, have plot ratios of roughly 0.3. Despite insisting that the development of the loop is to be governed by Hong Kong planning law and practice the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Planning Department have proposed a plot ratio of 1.37 – more than three times higher than the limit of 0.4. Despite repeated requests the government has provided no justifications for proposing such a high plot ratio at such a sensitive site.

Given the failure to explain in private would the director of planning explain, through these columns, why his department has proposed a plot ratio that contravenes its own planning principles and the long-established practice of restricting plot ratios in Deep Bay?

Mike Kilburn, vice-chairman, Hong Kong Bird Watching Society

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