Tagged: PlanD

Second government department confirms Mui Wo housing plan

A second government department has confirmed that the vacant Mui Wo school site is being considered for housing development.

Planning Department director Raymond Lee says the site has been recommended as “suitable for long-term residential use.”

In a letter to Tom Yam of the Citizens Task Force on Land Resources, Lee said that the site, which has been out of use since 2007, is one of a number of former schools being reviewed.

He said the decision to designate it for potential housing development had been announced in early 2020.

But it would be “premature” to conduct any public consultation as the feasibility study is still underway, he added.

He said the proposed housing scheme, if approved, would not conflict with the Mui Wo Facelift programme, now in its final stage.

The scheme to build public housing on the old school, formally known as the New Territories Heung Yee Kuk (NYTHYK) Southern District Secondary School, was revealed in August by KH Tau, assistant director of the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD).

Tau disclosed that the department had issued an HK$11 million contract to engineering firm Aecom for a feasibility study in April 2019. It is due to report in early 2021.

Tau said that both the NYTHYK site and the adjacent public car park were being evaluated for public housing.

Map: CEDD feasibility study covering school and car park

Yam estimates that the site would sustain a plot size of 7,000 to 8,000 sq m which would support between 700 to 1,500 apartments and a potential population increase of 2,000 to 4,000.

He believes the proposal for high-density housing breaches planning guidelines that stipulate taking into consideration the surrounding land use and planning intentions.

A Planning Department list of school sites under evaluation shows that the city has 234 abandoned schools, of which 181 are recommended to remain as a “government/institution/community (GIC) facility” and 26 are proposed for residential use.

The remaining 27 are former village schools in the New Territories that are “recommended for retaining their uses as village type development, rural use, open space, etc.”

Lee did not explain why the Mui Wo school site has been “earmarked for residential use,” rather than retained as public space like the New Territories village schools.

It is worth noting that the Planning Department is only concerned with the school site itself and not the car park.

The inclusion of Mui Wo’s biggest car park as a potential development site was a decision taken by the CEDD when setting up the feasibility study.

Randy Yu , Islands District Council chairman and south Lantau representative on the council, says he is uncertain of the status of the project.

“The answers I get from different departments are still sketchy. In any case, I was given to understand that the plan is not definite.”

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Ombudsman castigates EPD over passive response to fly-tipping

The Ombudsman has castigated the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) for being too slow and reactive in dealing with fly-tipping.

It has called on the department to increase inspections and take “stronger actions” against fly-tipping in rural Hong Kong.

The Ombudsman’s report on fly-tipping, issued today, did not refer specifically to Pui O, where EPD has been passive in the face of multiple incidents of fly-tipping and landfilling.

But its findings validate many of the concerns of frustrated local residents and activists.

Some filed a complaint to the Ombudsman last month after the EPD failed to take action even though it had video evidence of landfilling without permission.

The report notes that although the Environment Bureau had instructed agencies to conduct regular inspections of fly-tipping blackspots, the EPD had carried out just two in 2017.

Though being one of the major enforcement authorities, EPD has yet to work out an action plan for such proactive inspections. EPD usually acts only on reports from the public, referrals from other departments or media reports.

The Ombudsman also noted that over a 22-month period the EPD had launched just 18 prosecutions – less than one a month.

Over 90% of EPD inspections take place during office hours, drawing complaints from members of the public because it meant fly-tippers could easily evade inspections.

EPD should have conducted more comprehensive inspections so that there would be no loopholes for offenders to evade its enforcement action.

The Ombudsman also admonished the department for the lack of progress in implementing GPS, “despite years of study.”

A trial of mandatory use of GPS in construction vehicles began in 2015 but the system still has not put it into practice.

As GPS is already a well-developed and popular technology, and the government has already spent years studying [it], … we consider that EPD, as the department enforcing [the Waste Disposal Ordinance] should make more efforts to push forward with the aforesaid legislative amendments.

It called on the EPD to expedite the introduction of the system.

The Ombudsman said EPD officials should step up inspections and enforcements outside office hours and draw up “proactive inspection plans for stronger actions against fly-tipping activities.”

The report also criticised the Planning Department for taking too long to enforce ‘Reinstatement Notices’, requiring landowners to return sites to their previous state, and said its prosecutions had little deterrent effectd.

Between 2006 and 2017, landowners had complied with the RNs in just 8% of cases.