Long Keng’s battle with developers

Construction site as of June 2017

Ongoing disputes between developers and villagers in Long Keng have recently taken a turn for the worse, with “various veiled threats, vandalism to cars owned by the villagers and abusive posts by ‘ghost’ Facebook users”, said a village representative who wanted to remain anonymous.

The Long Keng saga started back in 2010 when an individual, claiming to own land in the valley, attempted to illegally build a road through a patch of woodland. “He hired a digger and surveyors and started to excavate land on the basis of ‘destroy first, get permission later’”, said the village representative.

“Destroy first, get
permission later.”

The developer later sold his land after he was fined and had his small house planning application rejected. Unfortunately, the new owners continued where the last left off and had 10 new small house planning applications approved. Obtained plans detailed the scheme to buy and develop the land for $1.5 billion with a profit of over $900 million. The document also indicates two further unofficial development phases for an area designated as greenbelt wetland, showing a total of 70 houses planned for construction.

Temporary illegal bridge used to access site
Temporary illegal bridge used to access site

Fast forward to today and four new houses have been finished, but a large area leading up to the building site covering five lots of land has been fenced off. “Some of the fencing was erected to hide the construction of an illegal access road. The fencing has threatened the habitats of cattles traditional wildlife. It clogs up drains and stagnant water has built up,” explained the village representative. “Importantly, 50% of the fenced-off road is on land that is not theirs. As such, a Long Keng villager has been forced to take legal action to evict them from his land.”

To further complicate matters, a separate development battle has also emerged in Long Keng. This time in a series of private lots adjacent to the illegal road and sat within a greenbelt zone. The Planning Department had rejected an application to excavate and fill these lots for planting purposes in 2016. But the landowner has proceeded anyway. The Planning Department has issued a reinstatement notice to which the landowner has reapplied.

Greenbelt land is fenced off and locked
Greenbelt land is fenced off and locked

Carol Ho, one of the initiators of Sai Kung Planning Concern Group, believes there are doubts as to whether the land will actually be used as a horticultural project, she said, “The application is for raising the ground to avoid water flooding and mosquito diseases, but this is unnecessary for their intended use. It worries us that they may eventually lay down concrete roads to allow larger vehicles in. Wetlands are meant to naturally filter out pollution, by building a road it will in fact add to the problem”.

The village representative adds to Ho’s concerns, “The applicant has tried to convince Long Keng villagers that this project is much needed and will be good for the community. However, when we asked the direct question: ‘can you promise the land will not be used for small house development?’ The answer was:

“Certainly, not for a year or so.”

The Town Planning Board (TPB) held a meeting on June 23 about the second developments but the applicant requested for a deferral with a future date still pending. “We expect the TPB to see that this application is an excuse to clear land for eventual development purposes. As such, there is no reason why TPB’s previous decision should be reversed, so this application should also be rejected”, said the village representative.

For regular updates on the Long Keng Saga head over to facebook.com/save.longkeng which is run by the residents of Long Keng.