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Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 09:07

Lamma yacht marina plan facing strong opposition

By Timothy Chui in Hong Kong

A resurrected plan to transform the sleepy face of Lamma Island into a luxury marina resort is facing strong opposition from environmentalists and some of the island’s residents.

Developer Agile Property and King Wong Development are expected to resubmit a proposal to the Town Planning Board (TPB) later this week.

This will turn the north side of Tung O Wan into a mixed hotel, residential and super yacht marina. The previous plan was voted down nearly four years ago by the TPB on ecological grounds.

King Wong Chief Financial Officer Cheung Sum said their latest plan gives more deference to environmental concerns — which sunk its previous bid for planning approval.

The newest plan is billed as a world-class marina and host to international events and local athletes to establish “Hong Kong as the Yachting Capital of Asia”. The plan increases corridors for endangered green sea turtles — migrating to nearby nesting sites a few hundred meters from the proposed site.

The development’s buildable area will be scaled back 14 percent to 180,000 square meters. This will include 850 luxury residences.

World Wild Fund for Nature Hong Kong Assistant Conservation Manager Samantha Lee said there were a number of other possible locations of lesser importance in terms of conservation.

Green groups have also criticized the more than 1,000 meter breakwater seawall to be erected if the Tung O Wan site is to be converted into a viable marina. But an Agile Properties spokeswoman said the breakwater could be modified to become a coral reef.

The developer has also offered to conduct green sea turtle migratory studies and breeding among the project’s goals. These include a hillside hotel development originally intended to provide 120 rooms.

The marina at the heart of the plan would host 500 yachts of various sizes up to 100 meters or more, with a sailing academy, waterfront plaza and promenade open to the public.

Most government departments were generally in favor of the aspects of the project which could stimulate tourism back in 2011.

But some departments were less enthusiastic. These included the Lands Department which cited an unacceptably high land exchange ratio of 1:11.9, after nearly 40,000 square meters of private land was proposed to be surrendered in exchange for public land required.

The controversial project suffered two previous setbacks: From the Development Opportunities Office in 2010 and the from TPB in 2011.

The project failed to secure TPB approval, with the Planning Department citing an undesirable precedent for similar applications in the south of Lamma and other conservation-related zones.

The project was deemed incompatible with the area’s conservation status, while its excessive scale would ruin the area’s rural character and ecological assets.

The Agile Properties spokeswoman said the company had been refining its plans for the past few years while preparing a full-scale Environmental Impact Assessment and Integrated Sustainability Development Strategy.

“We believe this is an innovative planning concept to make conservation and development coexist,” August Tiu, general manager of new projects, said.

The new marina could satisfy demand for yacht berthing places and to accommodate ocean going yachts, Tiu said. This is because there will be more and more yachts exploring the Asia-Pacific region.

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