Developers fear loss of control over public open space on their properties The government's decision to sue Times Square over the fees it charged for the use of public space will send shockwaves through the industry, developers' representatives warn. 'This is very unusual [and] should be of real concern to [developers],' construction sector legislator Abraham Razack said. 'The government should have very good justification for this action.' As far as he was aware, Times Square had done nothing outside its contract with the government. 'They have a right to do what they have done,' he said. It is believed Times Square has been charging the highest rent for public space in the city for its two areas of public space: HK$28,000 and HK$40,000 on weekdays and HK$100,000 and HK$124,000 on Fridays, weekends and public holidays. The use of public space at Times Square and many other private developments is governed by deeds of dedication that spell out the responsibilities of management and the terms under which the space can be let. In return for dedicating part of their land to public use, developers are generally rewarded with concessions on the plot ratio. The Legislative Council panel on development is currently reviewing policies on provision of public space. Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said that while such agreements were probably inevitable, given the city's density and pace of redevelopment, the way they were being managed needed to change. 'We have very poor quality open spaces,' he said. 'Some are in the middle of thoroughfares and others you have to go to the seventh floor to use.' He supported the action against Times Square. 'The company that signed the deed acts in the role of a trustee, and they are obviously accountable.' If they had been charging too much, they could be forced to pay back illegitimate profits. He hoped the Legco review would result in a more transparent and predictable system of open space. 'We need consistent rules to govern the use by the public of these privately built, owned and operated spaces. We want the government to publish a set of procedures and guidelines for negotiating such deals.' Lau Chun-Kong, international director of Jones Lang LaSalle, said developers had serious concerns about whether the government move would mean a loss of control over what occurred in public areas. 'In the past, developers have had control over the use of the space, but if that is to change then they may reconsider their positions,' he said. A shopping mall operator would want to be able to control activities that might affect tenants, such as protests against products.