The wetland area was concreted for a Community Isolation Facility in March and is now proposed as a luxury high-rise housing community

Developers who loaned environmentally sensitive land for emergency isolation facility construction have applied to rezone the land and build luxury gated riverside estates comprising 36 skyscrapers, 3 swimming pools and 1,200 car parking spaces, according to documents submitted to the Town Planning Board.

The Tam Mi site in Yuen Long is owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development and was lent to the government in February 2022 as one of nine Community Isolation Facilities (CIFs) built under “emergency powers” laws approved by then-Chief Secretary John Lee.

In mid-March the Wetland Buffer Area aside the Kam Tin river, including grassland and a cycle track, was torn up by mainland contractor China State Construction after approval of the site as a CIF on 22 February.

No government body would comment on the environmental laws or approvals in place at the time, other than to point to emergency powers exempting the site from Hong Kong law.

Last week, the government announced the Tam Mi facility would be one of six CIFs retired on 12 May.

The wetlands have “low ecological value”, having been paved over for a CIF and used as container storage.

Applications submitted mid-April (but prepared in February 2022) now claim the concrete and containers of the CIF as a major factor in rezoning arguments. “It has been a paved area for container storage and food factory uses with very low to low ecological value,” says one of the applications while the other says the area is “currently dominated by wasteland”.

“The Northern Metropolis will become a future economic engine and important employment hub serving Hong Kong and Shenzhen,” says a planning document, talking of the “San Tin Technopole”.

Both applications invoke the State Council’s February 2019 Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) and the National 14th Five-Year Plan in calling for better integration of Hong Kong into the overall development of the country, which, the applications claim, will be supported by luxury housing blocks in Yuen Long.

The first application, on a previous greenfield site and the current site of the CIF, proposes 22 residential towers and three composite towers of up to 29 storeys, as well as five blocks of clubhouses and other non-residential services up to five storeys, with 810 parking spaces.

The second, adjacent to the first, proposes an 11-tower estate, with six residential towers of up to 27 storeys and five  “composite” towers of up to 29 storeys, as well as two non-domestic buildings of two storeys to rehouse an existing sauce factory, and 398 parking spaces.

Llewelyn Davies Hong Kong shows the site would be barely visible from a peak 7.5 km away on a hazy day

That second site will also relocate the famous Koon Chun Jing Kee Soy & Sauce Factory, claiming the relocated factory will be able to “embrace more innovative technology and high-value-added manufacturing process (such as smart production, data analysis and Internet of Things)”.

The two sites will feature a total of three swimming pools and three luxury clubhouses.

Planning documents prepared by Llewelyn Davies Hong Kong show the skyscrapers would be barely visible from a peak 7.5 km away on a hazy day, but do not provide any fair visual impact views of how the development would impact the wetlands from closer vantage points.

Environmental Protection Department, which has been silent on all aspects of CIF construction and placement, including environmental laws and approvals, has not responded to questions on the development or its role in covering up environmental issues at CIF construction sites.

The Town Planning Board applications (here and here) were first noticed by Facebook concern group Green Sense, which says it expects more to come on the other CIF sites loaned to the government by developers.

The deadline for public comments on the proposals is 27 May while the Town Planning Board meeting is tentatively scheduled for 15 July.

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