Hong Kong’s highest court has ruled that the Town Planning Board (TPB) does not need to reconsider a rejected proposal of a development at Nam Sang Wai, a Yuen Long wetland.

Nam Sang Wai has high ecological value and is home to migrating birds.

Nam Sang Wai Development Company Limited and Kleener Investment Limited – both part of the Henderson Land Group – applied to the TPB for permission to plan a development in 1992, which included an 18‑hole golf course, residential units and a nature reserve. The proposed areas were close to the Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Nam Sang Wai
Nam Sang Wai. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

It was rejected by the TPB, but was eventually granted by the Town Planning Appeal Board in 1994 subject to conditions.

The companies submitted their plans, but the TPB concluded in 2010 that they did not meet the conditions as the plans involved major changes that required a fresh application. The companies applied to the TPB to review the decision but it was rejected.

The companies then appealed to the Town Planning Appeal Board, which held that the TPB should review its decision.

The TPB, in turn, applied for a judicial review to overthrow the Appeal Board’s decision. The TPB won in the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal.

Following the appeals, the companies applied to the Court of Final Appeal. The court dismissed the appeal by a 4:1 majority on Thursday.

Nam Sang Wai
Photo: Roy Kwong.

Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu, who has been following the Nam Sang Wai issue, warned that members of public should not feel too happy about one victory, as the wetland is still under constant threats such as suspected arson and tree felling.

“We must stay highly alert to prevent destruction when society is unaware,” he said, adding that the public would not want to see the wetland turned into a luxury housing project.

Kwong said the public should also monitor another planning application which needs to go through the Town Planning Board.

A spokesperson for Henderson said the group respects the verdict, that the appeal was only intended to clarify legal points, and that it was unrelated to the latest development plans for Nam Sang Wai.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.