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designing hong kong
Rural land: Lack of vision, means and will to prevent blight

By Paul Zimmerman, first published in the South China Morning Post on 4 April 2008
The recent sharp rise in property values has exacerbated land-related problems in rural areas.

These problems are the result of a lack of resources, misguided policies and guidelines of the planning and lands departments. And worse is yet to come.

At a recent meeting, district lands officer Regina Wu and her team told Friends of Sai Kung that the limited resources of the District Lands Office will shrink further in Sai Kung.

Owners, speculators and developers with a financial interest in agricultural lots in green belts, conservation zones and coastal protection areas, are manoeuvring to commence development resulting in illegal occupation, felling of trees, excavation and land filling.

The two staff dedicated to enforcement in Sai Kung battle 30 complaints a day and they often find themselves subjected to threats and abuse.

Throughout the New Territories, agricultural land is deteriorating.

It is full of ramshackle huts, containers and refuse and the status of this land is left in limbo. The government, acting as if villages are foreign soil outside its control, has shed its responsibility for creating proper village plans that can promote the health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the community.

The random layout of villages can only be described as planning disasters.

In a survey of several villages at midnight on a recent weekday, members of Friends of Sai Kung counted close to two cars for each village house.

However, under pressure from the Heung Yee Kuk and 16,000 outstanding small house applications, village houses are now allowed to be built on substandard village land without emergency access roads and without parking facilities. The increased lack of parking is resulting in extortion, criminal intimidation, destruction of property and assault.

Will the secretary for development take the drastic measures required to ensure that we can be proud of Hong Kong's rural land?
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