Lawmakers sceptical of planned new towns
Lawmakers were dubious yesterday about the government's chances of securing planning approval for its proposed new towns in the northeast New Territories, as they considered a request for HK$340.8 million for engineering works in two areas.
The Finance Committee heard yesterday that the government had received 40,000 objections to the proposal and just seven letters in support. It adjourned the funding request until its next meeting on May 13.
Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said the money being sought for infrastructure works at Fanling and Kwu Tung North could be wasted if the plan was heavily amended by the Town Planning Board.
The HK$120 billion development plan, announced in July, is intended to house 170,000 people in the two districts. It is strongly opposed by villagers who will have to move out to make way.
Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan criticised the Development Bureau for not exploring other options, including building on unoccupied land. "There have been many calls to develop other land in past years, and the government chose to ignore them," he said.
Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing told the government to address residents' requests that their homes not be razed. "How will the public be convinced that the plan is necessary when you are not working hard enough to find other land?" she asked.
Undersecretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung said there was a shortage of land on which to build flats, and said the Town Planning Board, as an independent organisation, would make its own decision.
Lawmakers also questioned the role of the committee's chairman Ng Leung-sing in yesterday's meeting. Ng is a director of SmarTone, a subsidiary of Sun Hung Kai Properties, which owns land in the development area. Ng said he did not need to declare an interest as his role in the telecommunications company was not related to the project.