Hong Kong and Shenzhen signed a deal on Tuesday to jointly develop the Lok Ma Chau Loop into an innovation and technology park, settling a long-running dispute over ownership of the border site to get moving on a mega project slated to offer “unprecedented” opportunities for both sides. The Hong Kong/Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park will be built on the 87-hectare loop on the city’s northern border – four times bigger than the existing Science Park in Sha Tin. Environmental groups warn government’s Lok Ma Chau Loop proposal could cause ‘ecological disaster’ for wetlands, wildlife “[The new park] will be the largest innovation and technology platform ever established in the history of Hong Kong,” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said as the memorandum of understanding was signed, confirming an exclusive report in yesterday’s Post . “[The park] will establish itself as a key base for cooperation in innovation and technology research. Related higher education, cultural and creative, as well as other complementary facilities, will also be provided at the site, creating unprecedented space and opportunities for the development of innovation and technology in Hong Kong and Shenzhen.” But critics were quick to question the need for Shenzhen authorities to be involved, with Hong Kong’s ownership having now been confirmed. They also complained about the lack of public consultation on the project. The loop is a piece of muddy wetland on the Shenzhen River that was formed as a result of work to straighten the river and improve its flow in 1997. The Hong Kong government had long argued the area was within the city’s borders, a contention disputed by Shenzhen. The deal was signed by Shenzhen vice-mayor Ai Xuefeng and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who announced that the mainland tech hub now recognised Hong Kong’s ownership of the loop since 1997. While the Hong Kong government will build the basic infrastructure, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, which runs the Sha Tin park, will be set up to construct the superstructure and run the new park. It will provide a total floor area of 1.2 million square metres. A new committee will also be formed with Hong Kong and Shenzhen representatives to oversee the development. Lam said the government would consult the relevant Legislative Council panels in the first quarter of this year. The Town Planning Board will announce a blueprint in the second quarter. The city’s No 2 official hoped construction could start “as soon as possible”, suggesting that it could be carried out in phases. She did not give a cost estimate, saying the Development Bureau would work out the budget. She promised convenient access to the park for people from both sides of the border, while a source added that new immigration facilities would be in the pipeline. Shenzhen Mayor Xu Qin said it was important for his city to beef up cooperation with Hong Kong to become an international hub. Ideas floated for HK-Shenzhen mega-city Planning and surveying sector lawmaker Edward Yiu Chung-yim recalled that the government had earlier envisioned a “university town” at the site, with the focus on higher education institutions. He demanded an explanation as to why that objective had been changed without consultation. Information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok questioned whether an area as remote as the loop could attract hi-tech companies and talent.