Lawmakers lament inaction over review of sports club leases

Government criticised for launching lease scrutiny decades after policy commitment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 2:18pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 10:48am

Legislators yesterday criticised the government for not reviewing the system for granting land leases to private sports clubs despite repeated calls.

The Legislative Council's public accounts committee found it "unacceptable and inexcusable" that a review was set up only late last year even though the clubs were holding a "vast amount of land in light of the city's land shortage".

The committee lamented the Home Affairs Bureau's inaction that it said had lasted more than 40 years.

"The committee finds it unacceptable and inexcusable that the [bureau] only started to conduct a comprehensive review of the private recreational lease policy in September 2013, despite the fact that the Executive Council was informed by the administration in 1969 that [the policy] would be reviewed from time to time," committee chairman Abraham Razack told Legco.

The future of some of Hong Kong's best-known and most exclusive clubs is under scrutiny after the Audit Commission urged the government to consider taking back private clubhouses and putting the land to better use.

"The 27 sports clubs hold 320 hectares of land - that's a lot considering today's land shortage," committee vice-chairman Paul Tse Wai-chun said.

The committee urged the government to write detailed guidelines for clubs to report their use of the land in order to make it easier for outsiders to use the facilities.

The government has also come under fire for turning a deaf ear to a proposed permit system to manage roadside skips, despite support from the relevant trade associations and government departments in 2007.

"[The committee] expresses alarm and strong resentment, and finds it unacceptable [that] the proposed permit system was eventually not taken forward," the report said.

Another vice-chairman, Alan Leong Kah-kit, said 10 car accidents involving injury had occurred while the Transport Department did not act. "A total of 15 people were injured in the 10 accidents that happened between 2009 and 2013 because of road skips - four of them suffered serious injuries," Leong said.

A spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said they will set up a joint working group, involving at least seven departments and led by the Environment Bureau, to explore ways to better manage the skips.