Lovely southern Lamma threatened by Baroque project

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    Recent letter in South China Morning Post:

    I refer to the report ("Project `threatens' Lamma marine life", November 14).

    In south Lamma a small developer, King Wong, bought cheap agricultural land, then joined forces with a developer, Agile Property Holdings (SEHK: 3383) ("that usually focuses on mainland real estate"), to seek a land-use rezoning that would enable them to build a luxury development ridiculously named "The Baroque on Lamma". It comprises 850 residential units, commercial facilities, a resort hotel, a car park for 135 private cars, trucks, 16 taxis and 20 coaches (on an island where there are no roads for cars) and a 500-berth marina for super-yachts.

    Living Lamma urges the Town Planning Board to reject this application as incompatible with the statutory land use planning framework for south Lamma, where two sites of special scientific interest are home to endangered species.

    Hong Kong should treasure and protect a rich and yet fragile ecosystem, instead of falling for yet another developer's sleight of hand.

    The Baroque developers claim to be fulfilling Hong Kong's shortage of berthing facilities, but if that is indeed the case, there are more suitable locations to build a marina without destroying marine life. The Baroque developers are waxing lyrical about building a "new town" in harmony with the environment and propose a "conservation corridor".

    Nature cannot be channeled into a narrow corridor and no amount of green-washing will change this inconvenient truth. Hong Kong will be poorer due to the loss of an area of outstanding natural beauty and ecological value, enjoyed by Hong Kong citizens and visitors alike, regardless of their income.

    Furthermore, there is no guarantee that Agile Holdings will deliver the Sardinian heaven it conjured up with its PowerPoint presentation.

    The report ("Hard times ahead as cooling efforts kick in", October 26) stated that Agile Property had "reached only 64.1 per cent of its full-year target of 37 billion yuan (HK$45 billion)". It also has heavy exposure in Guangzhou and Shanghai, property markets that are struggling after the central government introduced cooling measures.

    This means Agile Holdings is currently under pressure and a change of land status means it will be free to sell development rights to the highest bidder and rake in a nice profit.

    Laura Ruggeri, vice-chairperson, Living Lamma

    Petition against the Baroque:


    From South China Morning Post today (tho the Town Planning Board info says "Not Agreed" rather than "Rejected"):

    A bold development plan in an ecologically sensitive part of Lamma Island was rejected yesterday by town planners, who feared its approval would set an undesirable precedent.

    The luxury residential and marine project, Baroque on Lamma, was led by a Town Planning Board member, Cheng Yan-kee. He is the chief executive of the company in charge of the development and was one of the project representatives who met the board yesterday.

    The Planning Department said Cheng had declared his conflict of interest.

    The project would have covered more than 85 hectares of green and marine areas in Tung O Wan and included plans for an international yachting base with 500 berths. The scheme encroached on conservation areas and would have needed a vast, 78-hectare slice of government land.

    It was resurrected in March after being rejected by the Development Opportunities Office last year. The office facilitates private proposals that are deemed worthwhile.

    Under the amended plan submitted to the Town Planning Board, the development density was reduced by lowering residential buildings and hotel blocks from six or seven storeys to no more than four, providing 900 flats and 120 hotel rooms.

    But the proposal failed to win the support of board members and government departments.

    "Approval of the application would set an undesirable precedent for similar applications in the south of Lamma and would attract similar applications for development in conservation-related zones," the Planning Department said.

    A spokeswoman for the board said the project was incompatible with the area's conservation status and its excessive scale would ruin the site's rural character and threaten ecological assets in the island's south.

    Apart from the loss of farmland, the marina development would involve reclamation of about nine hectares, resulting in the loss of fisheries habitat, including nursing grounds for some commercial species.

    The Lands Department also said in the board's paper that it did not support the project as it involved a substantial portion of government land, some burial grounds and sites of archaeological interest.

    Private land in the hands of the developer only accounts for 8.4 per cent of the development's total area.

    The department said the prevailing land policy does not allow land exchange of this scale.

    The proposal sparked controversy, and green groups raised objections, fearing the massive development would be a threat to rare species in the area. The Romer's tree frog, which is endangered, is found in the affected conservation areas, while there is a nesting ground for the endangered green turtle just 200 to 300 metres away.

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