Land freed by ding rights verdict less than claimed

Local | Stella Wong 10 Apr 2019

The development potential of 900 hectares of village land in the New Territories is "low," acting chief executive Matthew Cheung Kin-chung claims.

The chief secretary made the remark a day after a High Court ruling on ding rights. That held it is only lawful for male indigenous villagers to build houses on private land and not on government-held plots.

That could free up 900 hectares of government land reserved for such houses for other purposes under the ruling.

But Cheung said the plots are scattered across more than 600 villages and include corridors between houses, slopes and pedestrian routes. "Therefore, the potential to develop and build houses is not very high."

Cheung added that many of the plots lack basic amenities, so the government needs to investigate carefully the potential for housing.

First, though, experts will examine the court verdict over the next three weeks to decide if there will be an appeal.

Cheung refused to comment on the chances of ding rights, which are rooted in old customs, being abolished in 2047 when the "50 years of no change" after the British departure from Hong Kong ends.

But Chan Kim-ching of concern group Liber Research Community said Cheung was sounding off too soon before a detailed investigation on the development potential of idle land.

Chan said a study done by the group earlier found at least 34 hectares of land zoned for small houses as being suitable for development.

"Many of them are over a hectare in size and can be used for developing subsidized housing or middle- and high-density public housing," he claimed.

Citing Ha Mei San Tsuen in Yuen Long, Chan said an idle plot reserved by the government for the expansion of the village is two hectares in size.

Another idle area zoned for village expansion in Pai Tau Hang in Sha Tin is one hectare, he said, and that is close to Sha Tin MTR Station.

Liber had estimated the 34 hectares can accommodate 11,000 to 14,000 public housing units.

"The New Territories is the area that contains the greatest land resources and the area that needs land integration the most," Chan said.

"But whenever we talk about idle plots the government says it encounters a lot of difficulties and so on.

"It is irresponsible of the government to avoid looking into the development potential of these plots."

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