The Hong Kong government’s plan to reclassify 16 farmland or greenbelt sites in the New Territories to allow open storage and other uses has been slammed by a green group. Greenpeace have criticised the spread of brownfield sites, which often refers to farmland polluted by industrial activity.

In all, the government is seeking to reclassify 24 areas where applications for open storage or port backup uses would usually “not be favoured” or rejected. They would be switched to category 2, meaning that planning permission could be granted “on a temporary basis” for up to three years.

Hung Lung Hang
A brownfield site in Hong Kong. File photo: Liber Research Community and Greenpeace.

The 24 sites total over 320 hectares, and are currently under Category 3 and Category 4, according to a document published by the Town Planning Board. The 16 farmland and greenbelt sites amount to 70 per cent of the 320 hectares

At Category 3 sites, existing and permitted open storage and port backup uses are to be contained, and “further proliferation of such uses is not acceptable.” Meanwhile, Category 4 sites include “areas with ponds or wetland, or with extensive vegetation, or [are] close to environmentally or ecologically sensitive areas.”

The government said that the reclassification is under consideration as industries operating on brownfield lands were being required to move to new sites owing to development plans in the northeast New Territories.

Chan Hall-sion
Chan Hall-sion. Photo: Greenpeace.

Following the announcement of the government’s plan, Greenpeace’s Chan Hall-sion said that the proposal would lower the bar to change the purpose of these sites for open storage and port backup purposes.

The group also said that many of the sites listed by the government had active farming operations, or were close to marine reserve areas: “The administration did not… fulfil its promise on expanding wetlands. Instead, the government first legalised destructive brownfield activities that were illegal, and worsened the chaotic situation of brownfield expansion,” said Chan on Thursday.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.