Mei Foo legal challenge thrown out

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2011, 12:00am


A Mei Foo resident yesterday lost her bid to challenge the Building Authority's approval of a 20-storey block on her estate at the High Court.

The Court of First Instance dismissed an application by Ho Mei-ling for a judicial review.

Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon ruled that Ho, who lives at Mei Foo Sun Chuen Stage 8, failed to argue that the Building Authority's decision last October was wrong in law and failed to take into consideration her interest in the lot.

The judge threw out her application for a judicial review on the grounds that it was not the Building Authority's job to look into land ownership in approving the maximum site coverage and plot ratio. He ordered Ho to pay the costs of the government and the developer.

The judge rejected Ho's claim that she had an interest in the lot. He said matters in relation to ownership of land should be pursued by way of private litigation rather than through a judicial review, which would only deal with public law issues.

The judgment said the Building Authority was not responsible for the adjudication of private disputes between adjoining landowners. 'Those other persons who have any private right to stop such works can still come to court to enforce their private right in a private law action,' the judge wrote. 'But that should not be the concern of the Building Authority as it is not within the remit of its public function in approving plans.'

Yip Siu-chau, spokesman for a residents' group, said it would launch an appeal after studying the judgment with lawyers. The group is against building on the site.

Joseph Chung Wai-kit, lawyer for developer Billion Star Development, said the judgment showed the residents' argument was based on a misconception. He did not say whether building - which is on hold - would resume, but warned residents would 'pay the legal consequence' if they tried to block access to the site again.

The lot in dispute amounts to about 8 per cent of the Mei Foo estate, which Billion Star bought for about US$15 million in 2009. Residents have halted development since March by blocking access to the site.

Billion Star, which residents believe is backed by New World Development, has failed three times to get an interim injunction to move the protesters ahead of a hearing in December at which it will also seek damages for the disruption caused.

Justice Lam also rejected Ho's argument that in calculating the development potential, the authority had wrongly included a passage to which residents had right of way, because it was up to the authority to investigate before approving the plans.

The judge dismissed Ho's claim that the authority should have only approved plot ratio and site coverage left over after the first development, and in proportion to the size of the carved-up lot and the whole site, which restricted the developer to a one-storey building. The judge also ruled it was unreasonable for Ho to file her application more than three months after the decision was made.