Flats plan on private land 'not a policy flip'
A town planning official has denied that the government is changing its policy on private land rights despite putting forward a proposal to build public housing on a site partly held by a developer.
Queries were raised by Tai Po district councillors at a meeting yesterday after the Planning Department submitted an amended blueprint for increasing housing supply in the district.
It included a plan to construct 1,700 public flats on a site near Chung Nga Road, west of Hong Chi Pinehill Village. The site covers 1.67 hectares, and about half of it is owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties, which is seeking the Town Planning Board's approval to develop private housing there. The remaining half of the site is government land.
District councillor Francis Yam Kai-bong, of the NeoDemocrats, said the plan marked a major policy shift as the government would not normally buy developers' land for public housing.
"If the government can resume private land in Tai Po, it can do so in other parts of Hong Kong and we don't have to worry about reclamation or even development in country parks," he said.
Earlier estimates have put the agricultural land bank held by the city's top four developers within zoned areas of the New Territories at 970 hectares.
Chan Cho-leung, of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, opposed construction of public flats on the site due to the complexity "because the site involves private land".
Soh Chun-kwok, district planning officer for the Sha Tin, Tai Po and North districts, said there was no change in policy. "While it is common for the government to resume agricultural land in the New Territories for development purposes, it is rare to resume buildable land," he said. "But the principle is the same as that of developing new towns."
The Tai Po blueprint would provide a total of 11,130 public and private flats on eight sites.
Sun Hung Kai said it would seek more information from officials before commenting.