Pair lose payout fight on tenement revamp prompted by collapse
Two shop owners who raised objections to redevelopment in To Kwa Wan lost their battle for better compensation yesterday. The Development Bureau's appeal board said it had no power to change the compensation policy of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA).
The redevelopment plan was drawn up after a tenement building more than 50 years old collapsed early last year, killing four people.
The decision puts an end to an appeal by the pair, whose shops are in Ma Tau Wai Road. They had asked for shop-for-shop compensation instead of a cash payout.
Yesterday's announcement, delivered on the bureau's website, allows the URA to proceed next month with its acquisition of tenement buildings and ground-floor shops on Ma Tau Wai Road, covering 540 households and 35 shops.
The shop owners were not the only objectors. Ten people living in Chun Tin Street, near the area to be redeveloped, sought to have their properties included in the redevelopment, but withdrew from the appeal, citing the high costs they faced.
The pair who persisted were a noodle shop owner who had run the business at the site for more than 50 years and another owner who rented his shop to a private clinic.
Chan Bing-woon, chairman of the appeal board - formed under the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance - said it dismissed the appeals because it was not empowered to amend the authority's compensation policies or determine the means of compensation when acquiring properties.
However, he agreed the authority should adopt a people-centred approach in handling compensation.
Despite losing the case, the board did not order the shop owners to pay the costs of the appeal since it sympathised with the noodle shop owner, whose family had run the business for two generations.
'The decision is within our expectations,' Chan To-ming, owner of the Hop Lung Noodles Restaurant, said. 'We had no lawyer to represent us. We didn't know what the best tactic for the appeal should be.'
A URA spokesman said the authority would help Chan To-ming find a shop in the neighbourhood if he was not satisfied with the cash compensation offer. But Chan said higher rent would undermine his business even if he could find somewhere nearby to move it to.
The project will convert 33 residential blocks into two 30-storey blocks with street-level shops, and is expected to include cheaper, 'no-frills' flats.