Kai Tak sports complex will go ahead
Chief secretary admits officials considered moving the complex to free more land for flats, but this would set back development by at least two years
Ada Lee and Olga Wong
The sports complex planned for Kai Tak will not be sacrificed for more housing, the government announced yesterday.
The city's sports chiefs were in uproar and threatened to take to the streets after a government housing adviser suggested the two stadiums and other facilities planned for the old airport site should be relocated to Lantau Island to make way for more flats.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor admitted yesterday that the government had looked at the possibility of moving the HK$19 billion sports complex, but said this was not cost- effective and could put the development of the former airport back at least two years.
One analyst said her comments meant there was little likelihood of any changes to the project as it stands.
There was widespread anger on Sunday when Michael Choi Ngai-min, who sits on the Long-Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, proposed moving the sports facilities - which include a 50,000-seat stadium with retractable roof - to double the number of homes to 70,000.
Lam said yesterday that research into relocating the 24-hectare sports hub was carried out when departments were exploring how to increase the land supply. The studies were "very preliminary and conceptual", and had not reached the stage of looking at its feasibility. She denied the government had been testing the water by releasing information through Choi.
"I hereby state the government's stance is to continue to build a sports hub in Kai Tak according to the original plan," she said, adding that any major change to the current plan would require a new outline zoning plan, which would take two to three years to obtain.
Choi said he was not disappointed by the government's announcement, but he suggested it should still increase the ratio of homes per hectare so that 15,000 more flats could be built.
Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of Hong Kong's Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, welcomed the decision and said it showed the government was finally listening to the city's sporting community.
Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, a professor at City University who specialises in real estate, said a mild increase in overall development density in Kai Tak could supply 3,000 to 7,000 more homes. But he doubted there would be room to make changes to the plan after Lam's statement yesterday.
"It is unwise to sacrifice the sports complex for more flats. People in this city are not homeless. They just can't afford to buy a home," Poon said. "As Lam said, amending the plan would take years of consultation. I doubt, for the same reason, if the government still has room to increase the overall density.
"Taking away some of the open space can be controversial as well."