Residents win delay in clearance

THE project to clear Rennie's Mill has been delayed for at least a year following residents' fierce resistance to the Government compensation proposals.

Government surveyors have been barred several times by residents of the Sai Kung cottage area from evaluating their premises. Residents said that no official would be admitted until their demands for more compensation were met.

Clearance was scheduled to start last month but was held up by the deadlock in compensation negotiations.

The Legislative Council Lands and Works Panel was expected to be briefed on developments in negotiations at a meeting on Thursday.

The Housing Department, which is in charge of the clearance, said it was likely that vacating the village would be pushed back by at least one year.

A senior housing manager, Mr Lai Wing-kin, said: ''We want to go ahead as soon as possible. But the residents do not even allow our staff to go into the area to survey their premises.'' The residents had been promised nine months' notice, according to Mr Lai.

Even if a compensation agreement could be reached next month, clearance would not start until next February.

Rennie's Mill was originally the home for about 1,000 former Nationalist Party supporters after they fled the mainland in 1949. There are now 6,500 residents.

Plans to redevelop the site into a new town and rehouse the 1,400 households in public rental flats in Junk Bay were announced last year.

The residents, who own their huts, have refused to accept the arrangement because they would have to pay monthly rental of more than $1,000 for the new flats.

As compensation, the Government agreed to give residents a special allowance of $3,450 per square metre of floor area of their huts - a move which allowed each household an average pay-off of about $140,000.

Resident Mr Chan Po-sin, 73, condemned the offer as ''humiliating''.

''We are not eager to move and are happy to wait. It is our land and if the Government wants us to move it has to pay us.

''We believe the Government will soon increase the compensation. It cannot wait until 1997 to start the clearance.'' A residents' representative and Sai Kung District Board member, Mr Wong Kwok-yee, said: ''The officials said our demand of flat-for-flat exchange was not acceptable.

''That is fine. We are waiting for them to come up with another offer. The later the better. No resident wants to move.'' Legislator Mr Albert Chan Wai-yip said most Legco members supported the residents and would press the Government for better terms.

Mr Chan said residents were not to blame for delaying the project.

''It is the Government that wants to move the residents. We believe it has the responsibility to satisfy the residents' demands,'' he said.