Residents of Kuk Po village in Sha Tau Kok have been accused of chopping down hundreds of trees in the village and the neighbouring village of Fung Hang to prevent the area being listed for conservation.

The area is currently being reorganised under an Outline Zoning Plan put forward by the Town Planning Board, which shows proposed land-uses and major road systems of individual planning scheme areas.

Kuk Po. Photo: HKFP.

However, as the plan was still at the consulting stage and the tree-chopping took place on private land owned by the village, it is not illegal and those concerned cannot be prosecuted by the Agricultural, Fisheries, and Conservation Department, reported Ming Pao.

Kuk Po in 2014. Photo: HKFP.

A representative from the village questioned the Outside Zoning Plan, as one quarter of the village area that included private land was listed for conservation. The representative expressed opposition to the conversion of private agricultural land to conservation areas as per the proposal by the Town Planning Board.

He also stated that the plan would damage any prospects of future development, and that if the government insisted on carrying out the plan the village would respond with more “substantial actions.”

Proposed Outline Zoning Plan by the Town Planning Board for Kuk Po and Fung Hang. Photo: Statutory Planning Portal.

Designing Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation that tackles planning and sustainability in the city, has stated that holes in the Town Planning Board planning process accelerate the destruction of areas with ecological value, despite the government’s best efforts to protect such areas. CEO Paul Zimmerman added that he had received complaints from the village about the zoning plan – which has led to villagers purchasing chainsaws to cut trees in Kuk Po and Fung Hang – since December.

Photo: HKFP.

Senior public affairs manager Li Shao-wen of local environmental NGO Conservancy Association added that the government should consider a system where villagers were given monetary compensation to protect the land.

Kuk Po in 2014. Photo: HKFP.

The plan proposed by the Town Planning Board in February allocated approximately 57.4 hectares of the village area as a “green belt” zone to act as a buffer for 23 hectares of conservation area. The public consultation period for the plan ends on Tuesday.

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Isaac Cheung

Isaac Cheung is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. During the Occupy Central protests, Isaac worked as an editor and reporter at LIVE: Verified Updates, a bilingual news page founded and maintained by HKU journalism students. He has also worked at Coconuts Hong Kong as a reporter.