Proliferation of nonconforming land uses in agricultural envelope of urban Hong Kong

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Until the late 1960s rural Hong Kong had an attractive rustic landscape and a small but active farming population. The recent widespread agricultural decline provided opportunities for urban-oriented activities to invade, mainly as open storage and workshops unsuitable in city areas. Rapid container port expansion and cross-border China trade generate demands for cheap and accessible land for non conforming uses (NCU). Rural development control and land use planning are inherently weak, and formal provision for such uses is lacking. An unfavorable landmark court judgement allows landowners to degrade the countryside. The activities have caused acute environmental problems, telescoped into a small territory, including visual blight, pollution, drainage blockage, loss of wetland habitats, and increased flooding hazard. The distinction between urban and rural has been blurred in the destruction of the valuable countryside heritage. An interim legislative amendment fails to stop unauthorized conversion of farmland. In the long term, an integrated and comprehensive rural planning strategy to conserve inherent elements, as well as accommodating selected urban spillover in properly located and serviced sites, is needed. Copyright © 1996 Springer-Verlag New York Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-474
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1996



Jim, C. Y. (1996). Proliferation of nonconforming land uses in agricultural envelope of urban Hong Kong. Environmental Management, 20(4), 461–474. doi: 10.1007/BF01474649


  • Rural land use
  • Countryside conservation
  • Nonconforming land use
  • Environmental impacts
  • Hong Kong