Call for more malls sparks dissent
Rural leader believes revamped North District could offer alternative to city centre for tourists
Amy Nip and Johnny Tam
A rural leader's call for more shopping malls in the North District to cater for mainland tourists has won little initial support from residents and green groups.
Sheung Shui rural committee chairman Hau Chi-keung has submitted a proposal to the Planning Department suggesting a four-storey shopping mall be built at the minibus terminal next to Sheung Shui MTR station.
The proposal goes on to call for more than 900,000 square metres of farmland or abandoned land near Lo Wu MTR station, four kilometres away, to be turned into a development zone, complete with an exhibition centre, hospital and hotels, and for more than 20 industrial buildings in the district to be revamped for commercial use. The sites involved are in government and unknown private landowners' hands.
"If there were more facilities for tourists, the crowds would be diverted from the city centre," Hau said yesterday.
If government plans for two new towns go ahead, the population of Kwu Tung North and Fanling North is expected to increase to almost 173,000 after 2023. Hau reasoned that it would be necessary to create more employment within the district at the same time.
The Planning Department confirmed it had received his proposal, which was undergoing an internal evaluation.
North District Council will discuss the plan in its meeting next month.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung suggested the government might back the plan. He noted that the idea of diverting mainlanders away from the city centre to other districts had been raised before and the government would be "co-operative".
Roy Tam Hoi-pong, convenor of the Population Policy Concern Group, said building new malls and hotels would simply attract more tourists to Sheung Shui - already a main shopping destination for parallel-goods traders - instead of dispersing the crowd.
He instead wanted tourist numbers to be reduced by abolishing the multiple-entry visa scheme for Shenzhen residents.
New Territories East constituency lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai also disagreed with the plan. "The proposal is wrong. [Hau's] suggestions will only put further pressure on residents in North District - and they are suffering a lot already."
Edward Lau Kwok-fan, a North District councillor, said any additional malls in the area should be built closer to the border as "that would reduce the effect on North District residents".