Grannie Green Revivial

For post before Aug 09, please read it with Traditional Chi Big 5 Code

Chp 57, Nam Sang Wai – Forty years champion for the environment

Nam Sang Wai

Nam Sang Wai is a history-making planning case reflecting the tug-of-war between development and conservation, which has been ongoing for nearly two decades but is still unresolved.

As early as 1990 local developer Henderson Land Development applied to the Town Planning Board for a residential development in Nam Sang Wai covering 98 hectares of fishponds. The development would comprise a 18-hole golf course and 2,500 low-rise houses of two to eight stories for 9,000 residents. As a compensation for the impact caused by the development, the developer would undertake ecological management of nearby fishponds in Lut Chau. However, since the Nam Sang Wai area falls within the Deep Bay Buffer Zone, the application was rejected by the Town Planning Board in June 1993. But that was only the beginning of what turned out to be a long battle.

Henderson appealed to the Town Planning Appeal Board in September 1993 and scored a victory in August 1994 when the Appeal Board upheld its case. CA expressed disappointment publicly over the Town Planning Appeal Board’s decision and warned of the precedent effect on other fishponds near Mai Po Nature Reserve. If Nam Sang Wai goes, the Buffer Zone goes – that was not an exaggerated concern given that there were already seven proposals for residential developments nearby.

In view of the threat posed by the Appeal Board’s decision, CA held a joint press conference on 9 September 1994 with WWF and Friends of the Earth calling on the government to establish a conservation policy to protect the wetland, including the fishponds, in North West New Territories. CA followed that up with a seminar on “Land Use and Environmental Quality in North West New Territories” on 29 September, at which Director of Planning Dr Peter Pun, Henderson’s Wan Man Yee (溫文儀), Town Planning Board’s Prof Yeung Yue Man and CA’s Hung Wing Tat debated the need to protect the fishponds.

Encouraging news for the green groups came in November 1994 when Town Planning Board decided to judicially review the Appeal Board’s decision on the ground that it was unreasonable and the Appeal Board had acted ultra vires. But once again, CA and other green groups were disappointed when the High Court ruled in April 1995 that there was nothing improper in the Town Planning Appeal Board’s ruling. CA joined other groups in expressing regret over the ruling.

But to its credit the Town Planning Board persevered and took the matter to the Appeal Court, which in early 1996 upheld the Town Planning Board’s appeal, ruling that the Town Planning Appeal Board had misunderstood the planning intention of the Development Permission Area Plan and had approved the development with conditions which were impractical. The Town Planning Board’s original decision that there should be no major development there was upheld.

That would have been a major victory for the Town Planning Board and the green groups, except that the developer appealed to the Privy Council in England which, in another dramatic turnaround, ruled in December 1996 in favour of Henderson Land Development. As that was the final decision by the then highest judicial authority, in planning terms, all the hurdles were cleared for the development. However, after more than ten years, Henderson has not been able to commence development as it has not been able to fulfill the conditions attached – a reflection of the wisdom of the green groups, the Town Planning Board and the Appeal Court.

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June 3, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

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