Property developers in legal threat over new-towns land plan

Developers association warns of challenge to resumption plan as a 'genuine public purpose'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 4:41pm


Property developers have warned of a legal challenge to the government over possible land resumption in the northeastern New Territories to develop a controversial three-town project.

The Real Estate Developers Association made its stance clear in a written submission to the Planning Department yesterday, as the last stage of a public consultation on the project closes this weekend.

Officials have said they could resume all the land and then re-allocate the sites to build the new towns, instead of allowing developers that had acquired land there to take part in the development, as proposed by the government earlier.

In the eight-page submission, Reda focused its objections on the change of development approach.

Louis Loong Hon-biu, secretary general of the association, referred to the Lands Resumption Ordinance, which required a public purpose for the government to evoke its powers.

"We consider it highly debatable to describe the resumption of private land to be resold subsequently for private development as a genuine public purpose," Loong wrote.

"Expanding the definition of 'public purpose' to include private development may invite legal challenge which, if it ever happens, will inevitably delay the development process."

The project, covering Fanling North, Kwu Tung North and Ta Kwu Ling-Ping Che, is meant to provide 54,000 homes, but will displace at least 6,000 existing residents. It has sparked protests from villagers who refuse to be relocated.

Land resumption was commonly employed in the 1970s to build new towns. Developers whose land was acquired received a letter of exchange so they could redeem their loss of development rights elsewhere. Reda said the government, in proposing the method this time, failed to include this compensation mechanism, known as "land exchange entitlements". It called for the revival of this system, which was scrapped before 1997.

Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said at a luncheon that she found it "ironical" to see lawmakers, one from the Civic Party, criticising the towns project after initially showing support in Legislative Council meetings.

"Those [lawmakers made] almost no complaint about this plan. And there was one member … from the Civic Party who said, 'Oh, this is another example of discussing with people'. That's exactly the sort of comment that the administration had been given over the whole process."

The Civic Party last night said Lam had quoted its leader, Alan Leong Kah-kit, out of context.

It said his "discussing with people" remark referred to the minister's work in general and not the new towns project.