Tree chopping costs Cheung Kong $32m
Cheung Kong (Holdings) yesterday paid $32 million in compensation to settle a dispute over the illegal destruction of 250 mature trees at its One Beacon Hill luxury development in Kowloon Tong.
Critics described the penalty payment as derisory, saying the government could have demanded compensation as high as $400,000 per tree, or a total of $100 million.
A 2,900 square foot penthouse in the project was sold for $43.15 million on Tuesday.
The developer had sought a swift settlement, as the dispute had delayed the transfer of flats to more than 500 purchasers, some of whom had threatened to seek compensation. Cheung Kong had originally agreed to deliver the flats to buyers in February. But the Lands Department refused to issue the certificate of compliance, effectively blocking the transfers, after it found that more than 250 trees had been chopped down or severely damaged during the project's construction, thereby breaching a key condition of the original land sale.
A Lands Department spokesman confirmed that the certificate of compliance was issued after yesterday's payment.
Cheung Kong was not available for comment last night.
Analysts said it was unlikely buyers would back away from their purchases because property values had appreciated significantly over the past 12 months.