VIETNAM is eyeing big-ticket Hong Kong property investment to help complete possibly the most ambitious development for Hanoi yet - a US$1 billion lakeside 'new town'. A development company owned by Vietnam's Ministry of Construction is seeking to create in 10 years the 'tourism, cultural and entertainment centre of Hanoi' on an island on Linh Dam. Seven kilometres from the current centre of the capital, the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUD) plans to house 20,000 people in luxury apartments, villas and hotels in a self-contained community with shops, parks, lakes, high-rise office buildings and entertainment centres on 184 hectares. Speaking publicly on the scheme for the first time, HUD general director Nguyen Hiep said at least $600 million in foreign investment would be needed to meet the 10-year target. 'What we are aiming for is hopefully three or four big developers to come in with us for leasing or joint ventures,' Mr Hiep said. 'This would be better than many small developers doing different things at different times - and this is where maybe Hong Kong can help us.' The development is being closely watched by foreign bankers and investment analysts, who say Vietnam has never attempted anything like this on such a diverse scale. HUD itself has previously attempted only single hotel, residential and commercial sites. 'It is alluring but at the moment I'm glad to be on the sidelines and not directly involved,' one foreign banker said. 'This is a complete plan for a whole new town from roads to electricity supply to cinemas. There are so many unknowns. 'It will be a tremendous test of the bureaucracy to get quality buildings finished and up on time..' However, Mr Hiep said the Linh Dam plan had the approval of Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet and the crucial local authority, the Hanoi People's Committee. The committee is working on the recommendation of the city's chief architect. Hanoi's old quarter, wtith quaint, congested streets, is straining under private hotel and road-way development. Such high-level approval meant 'special' deals could be struck if the right investor was found, Mr Hiep said, hinting at better than usual tax breaks and leasing arrangements, which currently last for 45 years. 'At the moment, speed as well as quality has to be our priority. 'Everything is up for negotiation and people must realise that this project is seen as favourable by important people,' he said. However, high-level approval meant that while individual building design was still open, the general layout, restrictions on high rise and land usage must remain. Currently, 109 hectares have been reserved for parks, landscaping and water - and 27 hectares for roads, leaving just eight for condos and offices, seven for villas, 10 for apartments and 12 for commercial sites, hotels and public buildings. Although hand-outs stress the project will meet the 'increasing demand for high-standards' in recreation and cultural entertainment, it is not clear exactly how such services will be provided, while question marks remain about roads and electricity supply. Mr Hiep said a feasibility study was now being produced by a Malaysian concern - the first foreign investor to become involved - and once complete in April, developers would be targeted.