Recalling lost battle and wrecked hopes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2006, 12:00am

The plight of the individual owner is invariably highlighted whenever a property is identified for redevelopment. More often than not, there is resistance from owners who do not welcome the idea of giving up homes or properties that have belonged to them for years.

The proposal to relax rules on the compulsory sale of old buildings has raised concerns about the rights of minority private owners.

Legislator Chim Pui-chung, of the financial services constituency, recalled his own experiences two decades ago as an individual property owner.

In 1982, the former Land Development Corporation (LDC), which later became the Urban Renewal Authority, approached Mr Chim and told him his property on Des Voeux Road, in Central, was required for an office project to be jointly developed by Cheung Kong (Holdings) and the LDC.

After a three-year legal battle with the LDC, Mr Chim lost the case and was forced to sell the property in 1985.

The escalator of The Centre has been built on that site.

'I was given no chance to redevelop my property, even though I had the ability to do it,' he said.

Mr Chim is still bitter about the experience. He said he had had plans to raise the value of the property by redeveloping it as a new block with about 50,000 sq ft of space.

Referring to the proposed amended law on the compulsory sale of old buildings, Mr Chim expressed hopes that developers and minority property owners could arrive at an agreement rather than take matters to court.

Sze Lai-shan, a spokeswoman for the Society for Community Organisation, said: 'The proposal will weaken the rights of property owners - a lower threshold would mean less bargaining power.'

Ms Sze said redevelopment was an answer to the issue of maintenance for decaying buildings. But at the same time it overlooked the impact on communities that had spent years in an area, building up a social world and often businesses based in the neighbourhood.