The largely rural Kam Tin South and Pat Heung areas in Yuen Long will become a suburban township with a population of more than 90,000 under the government's latest housing plan.
Details emerged at a meeting of the Town Planning Board yesterday at which members were split over the blueprint.
While some expressed concern over changes to the rural lifestyle and the integration of urban and rural settlements in the district, others hoped there would be good transport for the new town and sufficient job opportunities for residents there.
"It is inevitable to develop rural areas … just like Sha Tin was turned from agricultural land into today's new town," said board member David Lui Yin-tat, who supported the plan.
Another member, Ivan Fu Chin-shing, had reservations. "It seems our colleagues consider that development is the fundamental priority … But in recent years many citizens don't buy the old development model any more."
The proposal was drawn up by the Planning Department, after it conducted a study of 785 hectares of land surrounding Kam Sheung Road Railway Station and the adjacent Pat Heung Maintenance Centre.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced in his policy address last year a plan to build 8,700 flats above the two railway properties. The study found 12 nearby sites for development.
Under the plan, the 14 sites with a total area of 152 hectares would be used to build about 33,700 flats, with public and private housing each accounting for half. Together they are expected to house a population of 92,800. The proposal also features a shopping centre, schools and other community facilities.
Except for the 33 hectares of railway sites, a majority of land under the plan is under private ownership. The government plans to take five of the private sites for public housing and allocate seven for private housing.
"The two railway sites can be built up the soonest, as the government only needs to discuss the arrangements with the MTR," Yuen Long District Council chairman Leung Che-cheung said.
"But it may take five to seven years to resume the private sites and it could take 10 years or so from the planning to the completion of the flats."
About 100 villagers in the area, including some from the Ng Ka Tsuen village, which falls within the private development area, yesterday staged a protest at the North Point Government Offices where the meeting was held. They said they had not been consulted before the government submitted the plan to the board.
Separately, the government yesterday gazetted a resumption order for 35 private agricultural lots near Po Tong Ha in Tuen Mun with a total area of about 2.8 hectares for public housing.