Police firing range targeted for possible housing near Kwu Tung new town

Weapons facility among several premises that could be relocated to make way for residential development in area near proposed new town

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 July, 2014, 4:09am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 July, 2014, 4:45am

Development officials are considering relocating several police facilities, including a large firing range, to make space for more housing close to a proposed new town in North District.

The plan could release land on two sites amounting to at least 22 hectares, based on rough estimates by the South China Morning Post, on the fringe of the proposed Kwu Tung new town.

The police facilities would be relocated to a site in Kong Nga Po, about 1.5km from the Man Kam To border crossing.

Officials had in the past ruled out turning the remote Kong Nga Po site into a housing development, citing the difficulty of relocating a tiny firing range nearby.

While the uses of the sites, if vacated, are yet to be decided, a government source said housing would be one possibility.

Officials have come under pressure to increase the land supply to meet Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's pledge to provide at least 20,000 private flats a year and 15,000 to 18,000 public rental flats in each of the next 10 years.

A Security Bureau spokeswoman described the plan as "very preliminary" and said it was still being studied by the Development Bureau.

She declined to say whether the bureau supported the plan.

A project profile was filed by the Civil Engineering and Development Department to the Environmental Protection Department.

Development officials said they completed a preliminary feasibility study on the relocation last year and wanted to take the plan further with a detailed environmental impact assessment.

Work on the new facilities is scheduled to begin from 2018 and completion is expected by 2022.

Most of the freed land, about 20 hectares, would come from the Lo Wu and Ma Tso Lung firing ranges. Two more hectares could come from the Fan Garden site in Fanling where the police weapons, driving and traffic training facilities are located.

The site is already surrounded by residential developments.

A government source said security and development officials discussed the relocation when they were preparing the Kwu Tung and Fanling North new town plans.

"The Fan Garden area is not only suitable for housing development, it could accommodate other community facilities as well," the source said.

A Development Bureau spokeswoman said the use of the sites would be determined after the relocation was proved to be feasible. It would also carry out technical feasibility studies to see if the sites were suitable for building flats.

Chau Kwong-wing, a professor in the real estate and construction department at the University of Hong Kong, said while new sites could help the housing shortage, property in remote areas would be unattractive unless it was well connected to existing infrastructure and offered plenty of job opportunities.

"Otherwise, people would still prefer staying in subdivided flats in urban districts," he said.

A former town planning adviser to the government, Ng Cho-nam, said the government might consider other options than building public housing.

It could, for example, relocate entities such as private clubs from government leased sites to free up urban sites instead.

Environmentalists expressed concern over the suitability of a firing range for development because of metal pollution.

"There needs to be a comprehensive contamination assessment before the land can be used for housing development," said Cheng Luk-ki, research and conservation head of Green Power.