Opposition fading in 10-month battle over To Kwa Wan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 12:00am

The Urban Renewal Authority is expected to press ahead with the To Kwa Wan redevelopment next month after the 10 main opponents to the scheme dropped their appeal due to concerns about legal costs.

The HK$2 billion redevelopment follows the collapse of a 53-year-old tenement building in Ma Tau Wai Road in January last year in which four people died. It had been scheduled to begin last May but was put on hold after flat owners excluded from the project lodged an appeal.

Kowloon City district councillor Pius Yum Kwok-tung said the 10 property owners who first lodged the appeal withdrew because of uncertainty over legal costs.

They all have homes along the side of Chun Tin Street excluded from the redevelopment, which stretches from Ma Tau Wai Road to the other side of Chun Tin Street. However, they had argued that they should be included as they had been left with too small a site to attract any other developers.

'The government didn't inform us of the amount of legal fees involved. It could be huge as we will have to pay for the interpreter and three lawyers,' Yum said. 'If we lose the battle, the owners will be asked to pay the authority's legal fees as well.'

Chan Ming-chuen, who is in his sixties and is one of the 10 owners, said the authority's plans ruined a deal to sell his flat to an estate agency.

The 10 still submitted a statement to the appeal board explaining the reasons for their opposition.

Extending the redevelopment boundary would have required measures to ensure fire safety and rearrange the traffic flow, which would have meant a new consultation process and further delays to the scheme.

Two shop owners whose sites on Ma Tau Wai Road are included in the redevelopment have gone ahead with an appeal, but on the grounds that they should be entitled to new shops instead of money as compensation.

'This is my family business that has lasted three generations. Our business will be threatened by expensive rents if we can't find any permanent space in the neighbourhood,' said Chan To-ming, owner of Hop Lung Noodles Restaurant.

Chan said his father started the noodle shop more than 50 years ago and his 70-year-old mother was suffering sleepless nights over the planned redevelopment. 'We are disappointed by the authority. They had promised to handle our case with a high level of flexibility,' he said.

The appeal board heard the case earlier this month and a judgment is expected to be submitted to the Development Bureau in a matter of weeks. If the board endorses the development, the acquisition of properties is expected to start next month.

An authority spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The project will convert 33 housing blocks into two 30-storey blocks with street-level shops, and is expected to include cheaper 'no-frills' flats.



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