Officials firm on project for town in northeastern New Territories

No need to scrap plan or extend consultation period for the huge development, say chief secretary and development chief

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 4:05am

The government is showing no sign of backing down on plans for a huge new town development in the northeastern New Territories, with both the chief secretary and the development minister ruling out shelving the project despite massive protests.

A public forum on the plan to develop 787 hectares of land descended into chaos on Saturday as 6,000 people turned up, many to protest.

But Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the development was needed to meet the city's housing needs.

"If the discussion is not focused on how to exploit land, but to ask the government to stop opening up land or postpone the exploitation work for another 10 years, it does not fit the need of Hong Kong," she said yesterday as she departed for an official visit to Beijing.

Her views echoed those of development chief Paul Chan Mo-po, who said there was no need to scrap the plan or extend the consultation period, which runs until the end of the month.

He said it would be possible to amend details of the project, such as reconsidering the government's proposal to take over and develop all of the land itself rather than involving developers, and whether homes should be sold privately or available only to Hong Kong residents.

New World Development, a big landlord in the area, said it would look into getting involved in the project if the opportunity arose, but said the situation was complicated. "It is the consensus of society to accelerate land development and to help citizens buy their own properties," said Chen Guanzhan, executive director. "As a developer, we hope we can help … our company will try our best to examine the plan."

The government's proposal has been criticised by those who face losing their homes, as well as those who claim the new towns will become a "backyard of Shenzhen", catering to wealthy mainlanders not Hongkongers.

Lam will meet officials of several central government bureaus on her first official visit to the capital as chief secretary.

She will call on the Ministry of Health and the Beijing municipal government this morning before attending a lunch with officials of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office of the State Council and meeting officials of the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Later in her three-day trip, she will drop by the National Bureau of Statistics and discuss with the All-China Women's Federation her role as Hong Kong's top female official.

Last night, she met Hongkongers working and studying in the capital at the Hong Kong government's office there.