Parallel trading

Pop-up mall proposal for Hong Kong border town of Lok Ma Chau approved with 18 conditions

Planners impose 18 conditions on temporary outlet which will open late next year near Lok Ma Chau crossing and operate for three years

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 September, 2015, 7:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 3:16pm

A temporary shopping complex is set to open near the border by late next year, a year later than scheduled, after town planners approved it yesterday - with 18 conditions.

The mall - to be operated for three years near the Lok Ma Chau border crossing - was proposed in February amid rising tensions over an influx of shoppers and traders from the mainland that sparked unruly protests.

The original plan was for the outlet to be opened in time for National Day on October 1. It was then rescheduled to Christmas after the developer realised the procedures involved.

However, the centre can not be opened until the third quarter of next year at the earliest after the Town Planning Board approved it with a raft of conditions, including restricting operating hours from 8am to 11pm, provision of transport such as coaches and shuttle buses, and submission of an environmental report.

READ MORE: Shopping mall over the border won't ease strain on Hong Kong

Developer Topcycle Development said the mall would "alleviate pressure in the traditional popular tourist shopping areas". It expects to attract 12,000 visitors per day on weekends.

But the approval came as the city reported a continuing drop in the overall number of visitors - 6.6 per cent last month year on year, with mainland tourists, who make up the largest group of visitors, falling 7 per cent.

Commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung So said he was concerned about the situation, which officials have attributed partly to the series of protests against parallel trading.

[It will] alleviate pressure in the traditional popular tourist shopping areas

Overall visitor arrivals in July declined 8.4 per cent year on year to 4.92 million in July, with visitors from the mainland shedding 9.8 per cent to 3.85 million, according to the Tourism Board.

The shopping outlet plan will see a temporary retail complex of 208 shops selling a mix of consumer goods built at a former car park site near the transport hub of Lok Ma Chau in San Tin. Masterminded by import and export sector lawmaker Wong Tin-kwong, it received no objections from government departments.

The Planning Department received 195 comments supporting the plan and 16 against it during public consultation. Opponents feared it would cause more congestion and nuisance.

At the meeting, Town Planning Board member David Lui Yin-tat raised doubts about the mall development, calling the plan "opportunistic" and "not very comprehensive".

But board chairman Ling Kar-kan reiterated that the mall was temporary, and the developer would have to seek permission to continue operating after the three-year limit.

Before the meeting, about 20 members of a group called San Tin Village Stakeholders demonstrated against the plan and warned they would seek a judicial review to stop it.

Man Kwok-tong, village representative of Yan Sau Wai in San Tin, feared the mall would increase traffic congestion locally.

Earlier this month, a protest against anti-parallel trading flared up in the border town of Sheung Shui after the movement had gone quiet for half a year. The protestors were criticised by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who called their behaviour “unhelpful” to the city’s tourism industry, while other officials slammed them as “irresponsible”.

In recent years, the influx of parallel traders to border towns in the New Territories had sparked unrest in Hong Kong. The traders, who buy goods in Hong Kong that they can resell in mainland China, were accused by some local residents of pushing up the prices of daily necessities and causing a nuisance.