An alliance of arts and planning experts says the project is at risk of producing a 'developer's colony', not a cultural hub A battle is looming over the proposed West Kowloon 'cultural hub' as architects, planners, artists and academics band together against the government's game plan for the project. They warned that the idea of granting a single consortium the right to run the 40-hectare site for 30 years was equivalent to ceding West Kowloon to a developer and turning an area the size of a new town into a 'developer's colony'. One architectural expert said the government's guidelines left open the possibility that up to 7,600 flats could be built on the site - more the 10 times the official goal. The People's Council on Sustainable Development, an alliance of 40-plus non-governmental organisations, professionals and social activists, recently met to discuss the campaign's strategy. Albert Lai Kwong-tak, chairman of the council, said: 'The people are being forced to give up our right to administer West Kowloon. In the future, it will be up to the property developer ... to decide who can be a resident.' The alliance called on the government to suspend the project temporarily and come up with a new game plan, which would allow public participation and best protect the interests of the people. A forum on the project is being prepared to better inform the public about the issue. The groups are trying to raise the issue with the semi-official Council for Sustainable Development. Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen unveiled the plans early this month aimed at creating a world-class arts and cultural hub. Due for completion in 2012, the project will include theatres, museums, commercial and residential properties. The chief secretary stressed the best development option was to have the private sector fund the entire project in return for the right to operate West Kowloon for 30 years. With 55 per cent of the land to be covered by the world's largest roof - a partially transparent canopy designed by renowned architect Lord Foster - the government said that for the sake of consistency, the entire project should be offered as a single commercial proposition. The plot ratio (developed area versus site area) was set at 1.81 but Mr Tsang has already said the consortium could have a higher ratio if the increase was essential. But Mr Lai - who coined the term 'developer's colony' for the possible outcome of the project - questioned how much bargaining power the government would have after granting the project to one consortium. He said upsetting the developer might jeopardise the whole project. For the best interests of Hong Kong, the project should be broken down into smaller works, Mr Lai said. The Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA) criticised the current arrangement as full of flaws and a violation of the land administration policy. Bernard Lim Wan-fung, the HKIA's board of local affairs chairman, said every construction in Hong Kong is subject to the Building Covenant, which required developers to sell their developments within a set period of time, usually three to five years. 'The developer [would be able] to bypass the law because, with the right to run a piece of land for 30 years, it can sell its development at whatever time it prefers, leaving it the ability to manipulate supply,' he said. Mr Lim questioned Mr Tsang's proposition that only 500 to 600 residential units would be built within the cultural district, claiming the 1.81 plot ratio could result in 7,600 units. Legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing said she had requested a meeting of Legco's home affairs panel and the planning, lands and works panel so concerns could be voiced. Ng Mee-kam, an associate professor on urban planning and environmental management at the University of Hong Kong, said the government had hijacked West Kowloon and 'handed it to a developer' and would seal all information about the project 'in the name of commercial interests'.