New push for country park housing

Top News | Sum Lok-kei and Phoenix Un 18 May 2017

The Hong Kong Housing Society will study the feasibility of building public housing and elderly homes on 40 hectares of land on the fringes of Tai Lam and Ma On Shan country parks.

The two sites will be studied for their ecological value, recreational potential and development potential.

The land in Tai Lam is located near the Tai Lam toll tunnel while at Ma On Shan the site is next to Shui Chuen O Estate.

The Housing Society will be using its own resources to conduct the HK$10 million study while the government will provide technical data and information.

"The purpose of this study is to provide objective analyses and enable rational deliberations by the community," a government spokesman said.

He said it should not be seen as a preemptive move on developing country parks, but "further discussions" with the Housing Society will follow should there be a decision to develop these sites.

Society chief executive Wong Kit- loong said the two parcels of land were deemed appropriate for the study after considering transportation networks and nearby infrastructure.

But he did not reply to questions why the study was announced less than two months before Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying steps down.

What Wong did say was that the study should help the new administration to set policy.

The society's chairman, Marco Wu Moon-hoi, estimated the feasibility study will take more than 12 months to complete.

Leung suggested in his swansong policy address that peripheral areas in country parks be developed for public rental housing and elderly homes. And before leaving for Beijing, Leung last night said that he told his successor, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, about the plan before making the announcement.

Asked if the administration was bypassing the Legislative Council by inviting a non-governmental organization to conduct the study, Leung would only say: "It is early days."

If the two plots of land were to be developed, they would be subject to various regulations and approval from the Town Planning Board.

Legislator Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, a fierce campaigner for the countryside, claimed that the administration "is trying to evade the scrutiny of the Legislative Council and use peripheral organizations like the Housing Society to do the dirty work."

The deputy chairman of the legislature's housing panel, Andrew Wan Siu-kin, said the government already has 1,200 hectares of brownfield sites and hundreds of plots with abandoned schools, and government planners should be looking at them before developing country parks.

Panel chairwoman Alice Mak Mei- kuen said: "When the Housing Society conducts the study they should incorporate views from various sectors. A comprehensive and thorough consultation is needed."

The chief executive of Green Sense, Roy Tam Hoi-pong, said the administration has in recent years sought to create "an illusion" when presenting cases for environmental protection and land for housing.

A spokesman for chief executive- elect Lam said she would tackling housing difficulties according to her vision after she assumes office.

Lam has also pledged to set up a task force to tackle land supply.

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