A plan to reclaim 130 hectares of land off the northern coast of Lantau Island to offer 40,000 new homes is set for a funding battle as the city’s Development Bureau bids for HK$20.5 billion by the end of July to finance the project. The development is part of a plan to extend Tung Chung new town by 2030. While government officials are optimistic the city’s legislature will approve funding before Legislative Council members begin a recess in July, some lawmakers on Thursday expressed doubts, citing concerns about the environmental impact of the reclamation and a queue of other funding requests on the agenda for legislators to consider. A government spokesman said on Thursday the bureau would put the project forward for tender mid year, and, if lawmakers approved the budget by July, reclamation could start by the end of this year. That would enable the first phase of the extension to be completed by 2023. “The development is a very important part of the government’s medium-term land and housing supply plan,” the spokesman said. “It is one of the top priorities on our agenda.” The first phase of the extension, which will be built on the 130 hectares of reclaimed land, is expected to provide 40,800 flats, about 60 per cent of which would be public housing – and 40,000 new jobs. The entire project would cover about 200 hectares and be completed by 2030. It would accommodate 144,400 people and 49,400 flats. The spokesman said the government was “cautiously optimistic” Legco would approve the funding application as there had been little public opposition in three previous public consultations. The request will be debated at a meeting of a development panel later this month and then by a public works subcommittee next month. If the subcommittee approves the request, it will go to Legco’s Finance Committee for final scrutiny. Ideas to spark Tung Chung growth should be welcomed Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan expressed no such optimism however, saying there were already several items on the subcommittee’s agenda including a funding request for the MTR’s South Island Line and another for a columbarium development. “I wonder why the government has such high expectations that the [funding] will pass within this Legco year,” Chan said. Architectural sector legislator Edward Yiu Chung-yim said there were still many areas of the plan worth questioning, such as whether there would be cost overruns in the future in light of reports about a shortage of sand for the reclamation and other infrastructure projects resorting to artificial sand, which creates greater pollution. I wonder why the government has such high expectations that the [funding] will pass within this Legco year Tanya Chan, Civic Party Yiu said the budget was rather hefty and he would need more details to decide whether it was reasonable. According to the government spokesman, 60 per cent of the budget would be used for reclamation, 10 per cent set aside for emergencies, and the rest for preliminary construction work. The bureau also announced relocation arrangements for about 1,600 households affected by a 714-hectare Hung Shui Kiu new town development in Yuen Long. A spokesman said the affected residents were mainly squatter dwellers and that the government had reserved two adjacent sites near Hung Fuk Estate in Yuen Long for a subsidised rehousing estate developed by the Housing Society, which could provide 2,100 flats for those displaced. Those with monthly family incomes and family assets not exceeding the society’s limits – HK$28,000 and HK$350,000 respectively for a two-person family – will be eligible for the rental flats on the estate, while there will also be flats for sale that do not require means tests. Those who do not opt for rehousing flats can obtain a cash allowance of no more than HK$600,000 if their homes were included in a squatter structure survey back in 1982 or registered in a squatter occupancy survey in 1984-85. These residents will be registered in a pre-clearance survey to be conducted. Those who opt to buy one of the flats may also receive a cash allowance of no more than HK$500,000.