Eyes are widening and hackles rising in the leafy village of O Tau as trees near their stream come down and the planned $1.5 billion development across the valley advances on them. “It used to be that you could hardly see the new houses because of the trees,” Catherine Cheng, an O Tau resident, said. “The mechanical diggers are at it every day. Now the trees have been cut down and we can see the development is encroaching on us.” Filming by drone shows Catherine is right.
Jonathan Zeal, Chairman of the Long Keng Valley Concern Group, noted that worried villagers, led by the village representative, wrote to the Ombudsman, Planning Department and all relevant departments in early 2017 complaining about their failure to act against illegal land occupation. This is happening right under the noses of Long Keng residents. A concrete road has been laid on unlawfully occupied land. Less easy to prove is the allegation that ding rights have been illegally transferred to the developers. However, the recent Liber Research Community report noted the O Tau – Long Keng development appeared to be one such case.
“The Planning Department (PD) informed us that they would take action against the illegal land use a year ago,” Jonathan said. “They opened two cases and posted enforcement warning notices on the gates of an illegal road. The PD told us they had to observe a waiting period to allow the respondents to take the necessary action. If they did not, then the PD would act. To date, as far as we are aware, Government enforcement has proceeded no further.” Long Keng’s elected village representative has approached the Planning Department many times to find out what is happening. “The case officer told him they are swamped and cannot prioritise Long Keng,” Jonathan said. “Now they will not even answer his calls.”
Interestingly, while the Government has taken no action against people here in Hong Kong, they have notified the UK-resident owner of private land crossed by the illegal road that he is being prosecuted for not re-instating his property.
Five houses have been built by the developers on V-zoned private land between O Tau and Long Keng. Planning permission has been given for a further three. Jonathan wonders what will happen when they move to the next phases which, if plans they have seen are accurate, will see the development spread across the valley. As the project grows, the case for road access becomes stronger. “We observe from the sidelines waiting for due process by the Government. Why are they are not doing anything? It’s pathetic,” Jonathan said.
SAI KUNG BUZZ has previously reported that an activist snaffled the developer’s plans that were being shown to potential investors. They projected total sales of about $1.5 billion, implying around 60 houses, and profits of $900 million. Long-term residents are saddened. They can remember when the valley woodlands and wetlands were home to feral cattle, pigs, Monty the python and every kind of bird and butterfly that frequents the South China coast. Now birdsong has been replaced by the clatter of mechanical diggers.