Owner lets village's only access road stay open - for now

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 February, 2010, 12:00am

The landowner who was set today to block the only access road in Ho Chung New Village has made a last-minute concession to postpone the closure to the new Lunar year. He did not give a date.

His decision brought some relief to the more than 1,000 residents who have been grappling with the problem since September, when the landowner first blocked the road to build a house. He later reopened it, but notified residents two weeks ago that he would block it for good.

Residents had intended yesterday to park their cars - numbering about 200 - along a partly built, one-way road along a nearby river, and were bracing themselves for a traffic jam this morning.

The postponement was merely a temporary solution, district councillor Hiew Moo Siew said as he relayed the owner's decision. 'The problem has not been solved yet. We are still looking for a once-and-for-all solution,' he said.

Attempts to break the impasse, including a meeting on Tuesday between the residents and officials from seven government departments, have so far failed.

Villager Andrew Chan said he was grateful to the landowner, who was represented by the developer Vampio. 'I want to thank the landowner because he indeed has the right to build on his land. The problem is the government has been slow in making progress.'

Last night, villagers collected petition letters that urged the lands and home affairs departments to meet them again.

Residents want the government to expedite a plan to build a bridge over the Ho Chung River that links the old and new villages. Officials have said the plan would take time; building could not begin, for instance, without an environmental impact assessment.

Terry Chan Wai-tak, a 12-year resident of the village, said: 'We want to meet the officials and we need them to give us a timetable. We can't let the departments drag this on.'

The Drainage Services Department is building a new access road along the river as a short-term solution, but the route is blocked by a squatter's hut and he has refused to move.