Villagers vow to fight plan for new town
Thomas Chan and Lo Wei
Villagers in the northern New Territories have pledged to fight a government proposal they say will turn their farmland into another satellite town packed with high-rise tower blocks, devouring yet more of the city's shrinking agricultural sector.
The plan - announced by former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in his 2007-08 policy address - involves clearing 787 hectares of rural land in Kwu Tung North, Fanling North and Ping Che to make way for public and private housing estates for more than 150,000 residents.
The government has also proposed paying property developers HK$40 billion for farmland that they bought previously from the villagers.
'The development plan looks amazing, but what benefit will it bring us?' asked a man in Shek Wu San Tsuen. 'It just gives developers a chance to make huge money.'
Residents and farmers from the four villages - a total of about 500 households - in Fanling North have formed an alliance to air their concerns to the government.
The group says that no village houses or farms should be demolished or relocated. Instead, villagers should be allowed to stay and tend their land, allowing city dwellers to have a taste of rural life during their holidays.
'Sustainable agricultural methods have been adopted in Ma Shi Po village. The villagers gather food waste from restaurants and turn it into fertiliser,' said Cho Kai-kai, a spokeswoman for the alliance.
The Development Bureau has assured villagers that they will be reasonably compensated and rehoused on a 3.2 hectare parcel of land in Kwu Tung North that has been reserved for affected households.
'We don't need the government to give us new homes. We just want to stay here with our farms,' said another male farmer, who has lived at Fu Tei Au Tsuen for more than 50 years.
Meanwhile, members of the Heung Yee Kuk, which looks after the interests of indigenous villagers, expressed fears yesterday that inappropriate planning would trigger more unemployment problems and domestic tragedies associated with new towns like Tin Shui Wai, near Yuen Long.
According to the government's plan, the proposed areas will yield about 53,800 flats, of which 43 per cent will be public rental housing.
Planners estimate that about 52,000 jobs will be created in the new town.
A public consultation is under way until the end of next month, and a feasibility study on the plan is expected to be completed next year.
The proportion of the 53,800 flats that are planned for the new town that will be devoted to public housing