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Hong Kong housing

Government estimate of how many houses could be built on exclusive Hong Kong golf course ‘is reasonable’

Government’s projection for housing potential at Fanling site had been panned as misleading

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 8:03am

The chairman of a task force on land supply defended the government’s lower-than-expected estimate on the number of homes that could be built on an exclusive golf course in Fanling, ahead of a Tuesday debate on the proposal.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, who heads the government-appointed task force to study land supply options, also said on Monday that two members with conflicts of interest – being members of the golf club in question – would need to abstain from the task force’s meeting discussions on the site.

Wong’s comments came after critics accused the government of using “deliberately misleading” figures in its consultancy report submitted to the task force, and lowballing the number of potential homes.

The report floated two options for developing the course: fully developing all 170 hectares and building 13,000 flats; and partially developing the site to build 5,000 to 6,000 flats. A source on the task force said the consultants had assumed half of the land under the partial-development plan would be reserved for low-density housing, meaning the real potential for building homes could be higher than the report stated.

But Wong said the estimate was reasonable.

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“You can’t use developments such as Taikoo Shing [an estate on the east of Hong Kong Island] as comparison,” Wong said. “The golf course has a very long history.”

He said the course, built in 1911, had 30,000 trees, including 160 trees with historical value. He said any development needed to be more spread-out to avoid the valuable trees.

He added that the main access road to the course, Fan Kam Road, is narrow, lined with trees and built on top of the water supply pipes from Dongjiang, the river from which Hong Kong gets 80 per cent of its water.

“Any expansion of the road would affect the trees and pipes,” Wong said.

He said development density in the New Territories was often much lower than in urban areas because developments must be compatible with the local environment. He added that low-density housing might not necessarily be luxury housing, citing public housing estates in Tai O and Mui Wo, both on Lantau Island, as examples.

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Two members of the task force – vice-chairman Greg Wong Chak-yan and Anthony Wu Ting-yuk – are members of the Hong Kong Golf Club, which has a lease for the site of the course until August 2020.

Wong said the two members would need to abstain from discussions on the course.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor appointed the Task Force on Land Supply last year, to find ways to increase the amount of land for building on and help ease the city’s housing crisis.

The Home Affairs Bureau is in the process of reviewing 67 private recreational leases, involving 400 hectares of land, for development potential.

The task force source said the government had listed 27 private recreational sites leased to private sports clubs, but most of the plots were too small for housing and the golf course was the only feasible option.