Reclamation schemes put on hold

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 12:00am

Three reclamation projects have been put on hold by the government amid the sluggish property market and record budget deficit.

The projects affected are the Western District Development Scheme, the Tsuen Wan Bay reclamation works and the Sham Tseng project. The plans involved creating 126 hectares to provide housing for 114,000 people.

A government official said the administration did not now believe Hong Kong would need the extra land because the growth in population had slowed. The budget deficit - which is expected to reach $67.9 million for this financial year - and the flagging property market were the other reasons to put the projects on hold.

'Even if we need land resources in the future for accommodation, we still have plenty in the new towns, such as Kwu Tung and Hung Shui Kui in the north New Territories,' the official said.

According to the government's forecast, Hong Kong's population, which currently stands at 6.7 million, will grow to only 8.7 million by 2031 because of a low birth rate and an increasing number of people moving back to the mainland.

On Monday, plans to build a $4.9 billion headquarters for the government on the Tamar site were shelved to allow the administration time to review its priorities in the wake of Sars.

It is also believed the proposed Tseung Kwan O reclamation works for the construction of an artificial island for water sports will be abandoned.

And a major reclamation project in Wan Chai is the subject of a court challenge by the Society for the Protection of the Harbour.

The only major reclamation project still due to go ahead is the Southeast Kowloon development at the old Kai Tak airport.

A spokeswoman for the Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau said: 'The government is conducting a review of long-term housing and land supply, therefore it has no timetable on when to commence the reclamation projects.'

The Planning Department said that minor projects, such as one on Lamma to reclaim a hectare of land for building facilities, will go on.

Among the projects being put on hold, the Western District Development Scheme is the most controversial, with green groups having opposed the idea for years.

Under the plan, 79 hectares of land would be reclaimed off Kennedy Town to house 70,000 people.

Twenty-nine hectares of land would be reclaimed in Tsuen Wan to create homes for 30,000 people, and 18 hectares were intended to be formed at Sham Tseng waterfront to house 14,000 people.