Exco backs homes on Fanling golf course

Top News | Phoenix Un and Cindy Wan 20 Feb 2019

The government is said to be ready to accept in full the recommendations of the Task Force on Land Supply, including retaking part of the three-course golfing spread at Fan Ling for public housing.

The task force submitted the full report of the five-month public consultation to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on December 31, recommending eight options to gain 2,900 hectares of land.

The options include three short-to-medium-term ones - targeting the golf spread at Fan Ling and brownfield sites and privately owned farmland in the New Territories.

The other five options are long-term ones, including creating the East Lantau Metropolis, developing river trade terminal sites and other areas in the New Territories, and shaping caverns and underground spaces.

Lam said last month it would be irresponsible for her administration to fully accept the task force report.

But in a surprise turnaround it is understood the Executive Council yesterday approved all the recommendations.

The Development Bureau will call a press conference today to announce the decision.

That includes retaking 32 hectares of Fanling golf course. Its private recreational lease expires next year.

The recommendation of the task force on the golf course was "to accord priority to studying and resuming the 32 hectares to the east of Fan Kam Road," while for the remaining 140 hectares the government should identify a suitable site for relocation and consider ancillary infrastructure to support other developments.

Before the Exco meeting Lam said there would be a comprehensive response to the task force report this month - before its term run out at the end of February.

Documents that the Development Bureau provided to the task force say developing 32 hectares of the golf course would be able to provide 4,600 flats for 13,000 residents while a development plan for the whole 172 hectares would provide 13,200 flats for 37,000 residents.

But those figures were criticized by some as an underestimation.

Task force chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai said it would be ideal if the administration accepted the whole report, although he had not heard such a decision was in the works.

The convener of the Hong Kong Alliance of Golfers, Kenneth Lau Ka-lok, expressed disappointment at the news.

He noted that he has repeatedly showed his opposition to any resumption of the sports facility with its more than a century of history, which would have an impact on golf development.

Legislator Tanya Chan of the Civic Party said as the Fan Ling lease expires in August next year the administration should be cautious about the time limit for issuing a written notice to retake the land.

"There is a clause on the lease that if the government is going to take back part or whole of the golf course they need to give a written notice 12 months in advance to the leaser," Chan said.

The deputy chairman of the Legislative Council Panel on Housing, Andrew Wan Siu-kin, was disappointed that there is not a plan to retake the whole golf course at one time, given the major shortage of housing supply that will be seen in 2024.

"It would need four to five years to complete all processes such as urban planning and conservation no matter if it's developing on 32 hectares or 172 hectares," Wan said.

"It would need a development on a larger scale to have facilities such as hospitals and hostels in the area."

But legislator Edward Lau Kwok-fan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said retaking 32 hectares would be enough as transport in Northern District is already stretched.

"Residents are already worried about the pressure on transport if 32 hectares are used for housing, and the community will have more to say if the whole course is retaken," he said.

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