Lawmakers condemn Urban Renewal Authority over woes of development
Legislators across the political spectrum launched an offensive against the Urban Renewal Authority yesterday. They were particularly angry with the authority's decision to keep the financial information of individual redevelopment projects a secret, despite repeated requests, on the grounds of commercial sensitivity.
Legislators on the planning, lands and works panel also criticised the authority for acting too slowly on redevelopment, forcing people in run-down districts to live in dire conditions. They said it created conflicts between those who lived in the areas and people who had businesses there. They also accused the authority of not being committed to conserving heritage.
They cited the appalling condition of the 800-year-old Nga Tsin Wai village in Wong Tai Sin; the long-awaited Kwun Tong redevelopment; the row between residents and merchants caused by redeveloping part of Sai Yee, Nelson and Fa Yuen streets in Mong Kok - known as 'Sneaker Street' for its profusion of sports shoe shops; and the pending demolition of the Bauhaus-style Wan Chai Market.
Deputy secretary for housing, planning and lands Olivia Nip Sai-lan said: 'The authority is a player in the property market. How much it earns [in individual projects] has commercial sensitivity.'
Albert Ho Chun-yan , chairman of the Democratic Party, said: 'The authority [should not] think of making a profit when it is doing its job. Rehousing, compensation and heritage conservation are social duties.'
Abraham Razack, of The Alliance, said he had given the Legislative Council financial information on individual projects in the 1990s. He used to head the dissolved Land Development Corporation, the authority's predecessor.
Veteran architect Patrick Lau Sau-shing, also an Alliance member, asked why, if it were committed to heritage conservation, the authority did not take the initiative and talk with developer Chinese Estates Holdings about finding ways to preserve Wan Chai Market.
The authority's executive director, Iris Tam Siu-ying, told the panel: 'The contract had been signed and we have to respect the contractual spirit.'