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PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 2:42am

Paul Chan should revive his plan for homes on golf club site

Albert Cheng says taking on the privileged few, rather than suggesting building flats in country parks, would help regain public trust

BIO

Ir. Albert Cheng is the founder of Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited, a current affairs commentator and columnist. He was formerly a direct elected Hong Kong SAR Legislative Councillor. Mr Cheng was voted by Time Magazine in 1997 as one of "the 25 most influential people in new Hong Kong" and selected by Business Week in 1998 as one of "the 50 stars of Asia".  
 

A long-term housing strategy consultation document released recently proposed building 470,000 units over the next 10 years. Sixty per cent would be public housing flats; the remainder private.

And because the document only focused on projected demand, without providing solutions to tackle the land supply problem, very few people will take the proposal seriously, given that the administration has been using land shortages as an excuse for not meeting demand.

Embattled development minister Paul Chan Mo-po tried to prove his worth, despite being plagued by a series of scandals, by floating the ridiculous idea of building flats in country parks to boost land supply and solve our acute shortage.

These plots of land have all the necessary infrastructure and services in place

His absurd proposal immediately drew criticism from across the community. And, despite being development secretary, Chan seems ignorant of the facts. He claimed 70 per cent of Hong Kong has been designated as country parks - in fact it's only 40 per cent.

It's no wonder the latest popularity survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong shows he has the lowest approval rating, again, of any government minister - down to just 14 per cent.

As development secretary, Chan is duty bound to seek out available land. But, since assuming office, he has done nothing but chalk up a series of mistakes and scandals. He obviously knows little about the perennial land problem in Hong Kong, judging from his country park proposal. He is even eyeing People's Liberation Army sites in Hong Kong to ease land shortages.

These two categories of land are unquestionably no-go zones. Chan has again exposed his ignorance. The public cannot be fooled, as shown by the latest approval ratings.

Chan has said that, in order to make the best use of land, the government could and would recover any land for housing or redevelopment, whether it was used for a private golf course, farmland, or even land zoned for military use by the PLA.

He suggested taking back the Fanling golf club site for redevelopment, but withdrew the proposal after heated criticism from the rich and powerful members of the club. In fact, that was one very feasible option, which should have been further explored by the government. Not only would it have immediately eased our land shortage, it would also have placated rural residents fighting against the government's development proposal for the northeastern New Territories.

The golf club takes up 170 hectares of land, which is half the proposed development area of the northeastern New Territories. Together with the nearby Hong Kong Jockey Club's Beas River Country Club and Fanling Lodge, the chief executive's summer residence, the whole lot could supply a total of 200 hectares, enough land to build residential units - both public and private - to accommodate several hundred thousand people.

Most importantly, these plots of land already have all the necessary infrastructure and services in place. So, once approved, the sites could be developed in a relatively short period of time.

Objections to the proposal, when all was said and done, were merely excuses to protect the interests of a privileged few. Some even said that Hong Kong, as a metropolitan city, needs such venues to match its international status and serve high-calibre international businesspeople and tycoons.

In fact, these critics have the wrong idea. Repossessing the site for redevelopment doesn't have to mean that buildings of historical value are demolished to make way for housing. The old and the new can co-exist.

With good planning, the historic buildings could be preserved while the adjacent land could be optimised to provide different types of housing.

It's also a lame excuse to say the golf club has commercial value. With more and more international investors and high-calibre businesspeople seeking investment opportunities over the border, more are choosing to play golf on the mainland, rather than here.

And also, it doesn't have to mean doing away with the golf club altogether; it, and the Beas River Country Club, could be relocated to the island of Kau Sai Chau - already home to a public golf course - where a bigger and better club could be built.

Chan has been plagued by scandals since taking office. From the subdivided flats controversy, to claims of drink driving, to allegations of land hoarding and tax evasion - he hasn't come up with a single convincing argument to win back public trust.

The least he can do now is look again at the proposal to develop the area around the Fanling golf club, which would immediately ease our dire housing needs.

Actions speak louder than words. Now is the time for Chan to prove his worth to the people of Hong Kong.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk

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This article is now closed to comments

John Adams
Yes, YES and again YES !!!
Well spoken Mr Cheng !
charlesyeomans
Jake van de Kamp put forward a good idea yesterday.
HK has plenty of land, there is no need to use the golf course.
Let's look at why we have this housing problem in the first place. We take in 50,000 Mainlanders a year, that is 1/2 million in the last 10 years. This is far to many for a country (SAR) with the population we have. The strain on all transport systems and other government services are beginning to show. Cut this back to 10,000 a year and there would be very little problem going forward.
The way people are talking about this we will have a city with all buildings and no recreation, which certainly doesn't make HK an attractive place to live.
impala
Completely agree. Excellent piece summarising the utter failure of Paul Chan and the rest of the administration, and the excellent idea to convert the Fanling golf course. If Paul Chan can't act on it, we will just have to replace him by somebody who can.
caractacus
Country Parks only occupy 40% of HK's land, so you are correct, Albert. Similarly, the urban area does not occupy 7% of the land area, but about 30%. Who put out the lies about 70% and 7%? A dyslexic?
I have no particular sympathy for golf courses, but it isn't necessary to destroy them because there is already plenty of land available for building in the urban areas.
The real housing shortage was caused by the squeezing of the land supply and manipulation of property markets by Donald Tsang's administration in collusion with the property developers. Just look around and see the huge number of decrepit low rise old concrete buildings which could be compulsorily purchased by Govt. and re-developed into good quality, high rise public flats of a decent size and rented or sold at reasonable prices, at a modest premium. Brownfield sites can also provide huge areas of land for housing.
So why all the talk of resuming Country Parks, agricultural land and golf courses? Because the property developers would love to get their filthy hands on the countryside. We can rest assured that any suggestion by the Heung Yee **** is not motivated by civic conscience.
r6b
The golf course may be a 2nd or 3rd option for more housing, but the absolute first location that
needs to be tackled is the container and machinery storage yards surrounding the West Rail line between Yuen Long and Tuen Mun. This is prime land for housing, with great transport choices
to all parts of HK and Shenzhen, but it's being squandered. Locations adjacent to high speed commuter rail
are the fist and obvious locations for new housing development.
Check in out on Google earth view and see how much quality land is being misused.
atathk
Curious. wouldn't it be better fine to have villagers share their "right" for building houses (free money), rethink 100b and land allocated to cultural district, move expensive prime location government offices on prime central locations to perhaps outside areas before we start picking on golf courses. I rarely play golf and I am not a member by the way.
Another Social Critics...
Doing 'Good' is Basic for Any 'CE' Proper Functionings in its Position!!!
Any Intentions in Planning, Formulating & Implementing various Governmental Acts...
In Against for/to HK' General Best Interests...
Should be Accountable as more than 'MALFEASANCE'!!!
1) Disguisedly said for More Supplies of Housings...
'CY' Insistence in Implementing ReSales of Government-Aid Housing without Need in
Compensation back to the Government...Within first 6 Months of its Term...
Succeeding in Up-Pushing already SkyRocketing HK's Land & Property - Pricing(97's Level)
to at Least more than 50%, on Top!!!
2) DisGuisedly said for More Supplies of Lands...
'CY' & Paul Chan - Dingo's Alike in Chasing/Looking more Land Supplies, without Need in
Proper Balance of its Locations/Usages & Timing/Distribution & Etc...
Only Resulting in More Mal-Deployments of our Treasured Land Supplies!!!
All these Aggravating What Donald Tsang had been Blamed for...!!!
'More Profiteerings'...
Only New Collusion with New Alliances of Property Developers...!!!
Recalling AuManLun's Incident in Macau...ReHappening in HK's Again!!!
If Donald had been Blamed for Not Doing a Lot of 'Good', then 'CY Must had been Doing a Lot of "Evil'...
on Top!!!
Not Doing 'Good' is Wrong...Doing More 'Evil' is much Non-Excusable!!!
IMMEDIATE DISMISSAL of 'CY'...
Before China & HK's well-established Reputation be Ruined!!!
Thanks for Mr. Cheng Reminding Paul Chan to do 'Good'...Thanks!!!
fsk999
Under Article 13 of the Garrison Law, when the Central
Government considers that any military sites used by the Hong Kong
Garrison are no longer needed for defence purpose, it can approve the
return of these sites without compensation to the HKSAR Government
for disposal. If the HKSAR Government requires for public use any
part of the military sites used by the Garrison, it shall seek the approval of
the Central Government. The HKSAR Government shall in return
provide land and military facilities for the Garrison at such sites agreed to
by the Central Government, and shall bear all the expenses and costs
entailed. ****www.legco.gov.hk/yr10-11/english/sec/library/1011in04-e.pdf
 
 
 
 
 

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