The government has introduced significant changes to its HK$120 billion new town project in the northeast New Territories that it says are designed to heed demands from affected residents and developers.
But the plans, under which one of the three proposed towns will be postponed while density of the others is increased, failed to impress villagers who threatened to occupy the Hong Kong Golf Club course at Fanling if they are displaced. The revision is the third version of a proposal put forward in 2008.
Officials were also fending off allegations of collusion with developers after giving them a partner role in providing private flats in the new towns.
Postponed is a planned town in the Ping Che-Ta Kwu Ling area, which will now be considered as part of a separate study.
The number of flats in the towns in Kwu Tung and Fanling North will rise by 28 per cent to 60,700 for 174,900 people on 333 hectares - a third of the size of Tuen Mun. The proportion of public flats rises to 60 per cent.
Announcing the changes yesterday, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said the new towns belonged to Hongkongers and sales of the private flats might be restricted to them in future. "The plan was revised in the interest of the public. We did consider the possibility of facing a legal challenge but we are not afraid of it," Chan said.
Referring to the developers' role, he said: "The developments are still led by the government … there are merits [in partnering with developers]. I will leave it to the public to judge whether there's collusion."
Developers had threatened a judicial review against the original plan where the government would have resumed all the land they had spent years acquiring and auctioned it.
The government will now only resume private sites zoned for infrastructure, community facilities and public flats. Records show that some plots owned by Henderson Land in Kwu Tung could be resumed for building a hospital and some owned by New World Development in Fanling for education.
Developers can build their own projects on land zoned for private flats and commercial use subject to conditions, including paying compensation.
"We will resume the developers' land if they fail to acquire all the developable land before the deadline," director of Lands Bernadette Linn Hon-ho said. "This means that if developers do not offer enough compensation and residents refuse to leave, their projects could fall apart."
Former lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, who now runs Land Watch, said the selective land exchange would lead to a "monopoly by big developers". But lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen said it was a "balanced" option that would enable the government to speed up housing supply.
THE MAJOR CHANGES
- Postpone development plan for Ping Che and Ta Kwu Ling
- Total number of flats will increase by 28 per cent and population will increase by a third
- Increase the proportion of public flats, including subsidised flats, from less than half to 60 per cent
- Allow developers to build private flats on their own land under certain conditions
- Government will resume private land that has been zoned for infrastructure and public housing
- Tenants living in squatters or farm houses for 10 years or more will get compensation
- Eligible affected residents can be rehoused in public flats in the same districts
- Private flats may be designated for Hongkongers only
- 34 hectares of fallow agricultural land has been identified in Kwu Tung South for affected farmers