Jockey Club's plan for Sha Tin building ignores neighbours and youth groups

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2012, 12:00am


The Hong Kong Jockey Club has ignored the concerns of residents living near Sha Tin racecourse who face the prospect of a nine-storey building on the site of what is at present a car park ('Racecourse neighbours upset over club's plans', January 9).

Youth groups have also objected to the building because of the 'club's related plan to target the youth as a future customer base'. This will have a negative impact on society.

The club's planned building was approved by the Lands Department, even though the current lease for this area of land expires in June and a new lease is still under discussion.

The club did not intend to seek the advice of people living in Fo Tan. Under pressure from residents, its representatives did eventually attend meetings, but it was clear there was no room for compromise.

The government is the landowner and yet imposes loose restrictions on land use at the racecourse. As long as the club can show that a planned project is business-related (a fairly broad definition), it can do whatever it wants. With no planning restrictions or public consultation required, residents can do nothing about projects which might adversely affect their living environment. Clearly the present lease arrangements are flawed.

The Home Affairs Bureau has done nothing, even though there have been demonstrations, a petition with almost 3,000 signatures objecting to the building and two complaints lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Lands Department said 'no adverse comments' were received from any government departments. I do not understand why it has adopted this attitude given that there are growing demands in Hong Kong for higher standards of environmental protection and limits on building heights.

Undue favour has been shown to the Jockey Club. A public survey conducted by the New Youth Forum found that almost half of the respondents believe that any planned building project on the racecourse land must conform to Town Planning Board regulations.

Given its position in society, the club should accept its corporate social responsibility. It should seek to reach a consensus through consultation with all stakeholders. Our government should also seriously consider imposing planning restrictions on racecourse land so that there is no repeat of this incident.

Scarlett Pong Oi-lan, Sha Tin district councillor