THE public auction of three lots, scheduled for March 1, will be the next gauge of confidence in the residential market. Developers will be given a wide choice of location, the lots being in Kowloon, Tuen Mun and Tai Po. The biggest is an 18,490 square metre site at Area 7 in Tai Po. The developer has to develop a gross floor area of at least 26,626 square metres. Bidding interest is expected to be strong because Tai Po, with access to the Kowloon-Canton Railway network, is emerging as a new residential centre in the New Territories. Prevailing prices of top quality residential flats in Tai Po have already exceeded $4,000 per square foot. The second plot of Crown land being auctioned next month is a 7,059 sq m site at the junction of Farm Road and Ma Tau Wai Road in To Kwa Wan - zoned for use as private residential land and for youth and child care centres. The developer must provide a gross floor area of at least 22,500 sq m. The third lot is a 7,877 sq m residential site at Area 4C in Tuen Mun. The developer must provide a gross floor area of at least 15,600 sq m. Bidding is expected to be more cautious for this site because the property market in Tuen Mun has been weak compared with other areas in the territory. Despite repeated efforts of the Government and the banking industry to cool the market, home prices continue to escalate. Substantial rises in flat prices have been triggered by the record $3.94 billion paid for a central Kowloon residential site at a public auction in December.