Islanders apply for community funds to fight superjail

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 12:00am

They want to draw up plans to make Hei Ling Chau the centre of a tourist haven

Residents and neighbours opposed to the building of a $12 billion 'superjail' on Hei Ling Chau are gearing up for a fresh attack, this time with a plan to use government funds to derail the project.

The Living Islands Movement, a residents' group formed in opposition to the development earlier this year, is applying for funding under the Council for Sustainable Development's $100-million fund for community projects so it can draw up a comprehensive tourism plan for the island and surrounding areas.

'We plan to go to the sustainable development council and ask them for funds to draw up a master plan for a 'living islands' concept. The plan would look at alternative uses for the area, the centre of which would be Hei Ling Chau,' group spokesman Tom Masterson said yesterday.

'We've also had informal discussions with developers and some of the theme parks in Hong Kong about how we might, with funds for a tourist development zone, put together a uniting, exciting, financially sustainable theme for tourism for the area.'

The objective would be to present options for an economically beneficial and environmentally sensitive development plan for the area.

Local residents and those in neighbouring areas are opposed to the superjail because of environmental concerns - with the island being home to Bogadek's legless lizard, a reptile found only on Hei Ling Chau and two nearby islands - as well as the threat to the future development of the area as a tourist haven.

The jail will be in the direct line of sight from numerous vantage points, including the Peak, Lamma island, Discovery Bay, Peng Chau, Mui Wo, Cheung Chau, numerous hiking trails and ferries passing to and from the outlying islands and Macau.

A survey by the Green Peng Chau Association in May showed 87 per cent of respondents thought Hei Ling Chau was the wrong site for a superjail and 83 per cent said the money would be better spent on developing tourism.

But last July Hei Ling Chau was picked over the only other site considered for the development - Kong Nga Po.

The government said the island had 'less potential for alternative development in the long run from an overall planning point of view'.

The Security Bureau is now moving ahead with the first stage of the prison development - a $7 million feasibility study to address land use and planning issues, with provisions for public participation.

Subject to the outcome of the feasibility study, the 7,220-place prison is expected to be completed by 2013.

The facility would bring Hong Kong's prison capacity to 13,860 and replace eight of the existing 24 prisons, putting real estate estimated to be worth billions of dollars on to the market.