Paul Chan

Local opposition casts more doubt on land sale list

Some of the sites selected for building new flats face local opposition, on top of other challenges to them being used any time soon

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 5:13am

Doubts surround the government's ability to execute its new land-sale programme on schedule, as district councils and a university have expressed objections - including a possible legal challenge - against rezoning some of the sites for housing.

One of the sites is also on the edge of a closed landfill in Kowloon, and an assessment of whether the former dump will pose environmental hazards to the neighbourhood will take months.

The objections came a day after Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po announced the abolition of the application-list system, under which developers could trigger land sales, and said the government would release some of the sites on the sale list every quarter.

It was already clear that most of the 28 sites would not be available until next year after Chan said that 22 had yet to enter or complete the town planning process for rezoning.

The site near the former Ngau Chi Wan landfill in Fung Shing Street is one of these, and also faces an objection from the local district council.

Currently a "government, institutional and community" zone, it was originally earmarked for a school and is now set to be the site of 570 flats.

In a January meeting we clearly told officials our concerns about traffic overload in the area, which has one large-scale private project completed

Wong Tai Sin District Council chairman Li Tak-hong said yesterday that it was "inappropriate" for the government to ignore the council's objection and put it in the land-sale list.

"In a January meeting we clearly told officials our concerns about traffic overload in the area, which has one large-scale private project completed," Li said.

Planning officials have also said a consultant would need three months to monitor any hazards from methane emissions from the former landfill.

Kwun Tong District Council expressed mixed views about a site in Lei Yue Mun, formerly reserved for a parking facility for tourist coaches that use nearby restaurants. The council said any new building should contain the 100 lost parking spaces.

Town Planning Board vice-chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai said it was unusual for so many sites awaiting planning approval to be on the list.

"I understand that the government put them in because it wants to show the many sites that are in the pipeline," he said.

Wong said the board would consider local objections and did not rule out rejecting rezoning for some sites. "We may ask officials to look for alternative locations."

The board takes nine months to rezone a site.

Former lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, who now runs concern group Land Watch, said the objections might make the rezoning process even longer, preventing the government from selling the sites on schedule.

The Development Bureau said the sites awaiting the planning process were put on the list to "increase market transparency", and it would finish the rezoning work as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Centaline Property has lowered its price forecast for a 655-flat site in Tseung Kwan O put up for tender by the Lands Department yesterday. It said it now expected the site to fetch HK$2.16 billion, about five per cent below its original estimate.