Government ‘will not withdraw’ HK$120b new towns building plan that sparked Legco storming

Minister 'unhappy' at protest outside Legco and says work on new towns will start in 2018

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 June, 2014, 2:17pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 6:30pm

The government has no plans to call off a controversial development in the New Territories, but all are welcome to take part in the public debate around it, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said yesterday.

"Construction won't begin until 2018. If anyone has any opinions or matters for discussion, we still have this time and space to discuss," Chan said.

The HK$120 billion project has raised the ire of villagers whose homes will be razed in order to make way for two new towns in Kwu Tung and Fanling North.

Hundreds of protesters stormed the Legislative Council building on Friday, clashing with police as they tried to force their way into a Finance Committee meeting where members debated a HK$340 million interim funding request.

Speaking in a television interview yesterday, Chan said he was unhappy about the protest and was "worried for Hong Kong".

He accused some lawmakers of misrepresenting the revised government plan, which would produce about 60,700 flats roughly half earmarked as public housing.

Chan said Town Planning Board approval for the government's proposed outline zoning plan was not guaranteed, and that some of the interim funding could go to waste if the board decided to change or reject the plan during vetting. But he said, "the risk [of that] is not high".

Cheuk Kai-kai, a member of the Joint Committee of Fanling North Villages and Residents, criticised the government for seeking funding from Legco's Finance Committee before a decision by town planners.

"Although the funding is for preliminary work, we all know that when the engineering work begins, the villagers … will be subject to nuisance from excavation and drilling," she said.

But Chan said it was normal practice for the government to simultaneously apply for funding for pre-construction engineering work while waiting for town planners' approval. He felt it was unfair for the government to be accused of ignoring the opinions of stakeholders.

"You cannot say that just because something is not to your liking - for example some are demanding no demolition or relocation - … that we never consulted you," he said. "I think this is not fair."