District council chiefs won't budge on rezoning plans after lunch with CY

Chief executive's lunch with council chairmen fails to rally support for proposals that would help meet his ambitious housing target

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 May, 2014, 3:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 May, 2014, 3:00am

Three out of four pro-government district chiefs say they will not lend support to its ambitious housing plans, after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying tried to lobby them during a lunch meeting yesterday.

The Wong Tai Sin district chief snubbed Leung's invitation.

The lunch, held at Government House, was hosted by Leung and his land and housing ministers Paul Chan Mo-po and Anthony Cheung Bing-leung. The chairmen and vice-chairmen of four district councils - Kwai Tsing, Sha Tin, Wong Tai Sin and Yuen Long - were invited.

It came as the government faces an uphill battle to secure council support to rezone open space, green-belt and community sites to build more flats, in order to meet Leung's target of building 470,000 new flats in the next decade.

Wong Tai Sin district council chairman Li Tak-hong and his deputy Wong Kam-chiu turned down the invitation, saying they had travel plans. The council's housing committee head Chan Wai-kwan stood in for them at the lunch but could not be reached for comment last night.

Sha Tin district council chairman Ho Hau-cheung said after the lunch yesterday: "We will not give the government more support just because of a lunch.

"My concern is whether there will be enough community facilities. We shouldn't just look at the quantity [the number of people housed]; we should also look at their quality of life."

Kwai Tsing chairman Fong Ping and Yuen Long chairman Leung Che-cheung agreed with Ho. Both of them said they would support the rezoning only if traffic issues and the problem of displaced industries were resolved.

Fong said one of the conditions for his area to agree with the rezoning was the installation of lifts to transport residents up and down a steep hill in Kwai Chung - a promise made by the previous administration - but no timetable had been given.

Leung Che-cheung wanted the government to provide space for storage operations that would have to make way for the Yuen Long South housing plan. "Even if the government wants to phase out inefficient land use, owners should be given land on which they can run other businesses, like organic farms," he said.

While the government did not say why the four district councils had been invited for lunch, Kwai Tsing, Sha Tin and Yuen Long have seen fierce opposition to the rezoning plans.

The administration's latest proposal calls for rezoning of 13 sites in Kwai Tsing, 11 in Sha Tin and 14 in Yuen Long. Those plans would need the support of the three councils.

The plans would create more than 69,000 flats, which could house over 738,000 people and would account for about 15 per cent of the housing target.

The proposal could still proceed with Town Planning Board approval. Yesterday, the board's metro planning committee endorsed the rezoning of five open space, green-belt and community sites in Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi, despite local opposition. There will be a two-month public consultation on the plans before the government seeks board approval for the rezoning.