The High Court has ruled that the Town Planning Board (TPB) must reconsider plans to rezone three country park enclaves for Small House development. The areas include Hoi Ha, Pak Lap, and So Lo Pun.

The Small House Policy states that certain male descendants have the right to build village houses of three storeys. Chan Ka-lam of the Save Our Country Parks applied for the judicial review last year against the government and the TPB.

See also: Explainer: The Small House Policy

Mr Justice Thomas Au handed down the ruling on Friday saying that the TPB had failed in its duty to find out if villagers had a genuine need to build houses there.

Hoi Ha Wan
Hoi Ha Wan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Executive Council approved the draft outline zoning plans for the three locations in February 2015.

Au wrote that the outline zoning plans were gazetted and exhibited for a public consultation on September 27, 2013, attracting 14,000 comments.

so lo pun village abandoned hong kong
Land protests at So Lo Pun. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

He said there were two main opposition groups. The first group comprised of villagers, rural councils and individuals, who said that the draft plans cannot satisfy the demand for Small House development.

The second group was made up of lawmakers, district councillors, green groups, other organisations and individuals. They mainly objected on the grounds that the plans were drawn up based on an unrealistic demand for Small Houses, which lacked verification.

The judicial review applicant also said that the TPB still overestimated the need for Small Houses after further consultation, and it underestimated the destruction to the environment.

high court
Photo: In-Media.

Au wrote in the ruling: “The TPB had failed to properly inquire into the matters raised by the above representations as to whether the proposed [village type development] zoning was based on the genuine needs of the indigenous villagers.”

“I therefore accept the applicant’s submissions that in making the TPB Decision, the TPB had failed to carry out its duty of inquiry in relation to this issue.”

Au said the TPB did not provide any explanation after opposition groups idenitified that the survey maps it used were inaccurate.

Chan also won the legal cost of the judicial review application.

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.