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Hong Kong housing

Brownfield site development for New Territories North town plan to be brought forward in Hong Kong leader’s policy address

Source tells the Post that Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s policy address on Wednesday will include fast-tracked plans for new town that could house up to 350,000 people

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 8:04am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 10:04am

Hong Kong’s leader is set to fast-track plans for a massive new town, which would see 200 hectares of brownfield land being released to build flats, as she responds to intense pressure to come up with affordable housing solutions in her policy address on Wednesday.

Sources familiar with preparations for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s second policy blueprint revealed her plans to push ahead with the New Territories North development, which is still in the conceptual stage and was originally expected to be completed after 2030.

While Lam’s government favours reclamation to create precious new land for housing, it is under greater public pressure to redevelop brownfield sites, which are mainly privately owned and often rented to businesses.

The new town development covers the Hung Lung Hang, Heung Yuen Wai, Ping Che, Ta Kwu Ling and Queen’s Hill areas. It is close to the San Tin development at the Lok Ma Chau border area and the Man Kam To logistics corridor, offering about 720 hectares of developable land – 200 hectares of which is brownfield sites.

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One source said the government would announce the commencement of a detailed study, bringing forward the development schedule for the New Territories North project.

“The new study will take the development plan beyond the conceptual plan listed in the government’s 2030 Plus blueprint unveiled in 2016,” the source said.

“2030 Plus only identifies New Territories North as one of the potential new development areas beyond 2030. It is a step forward for the government to launch a detailed feasibility study on the new town.”

The new town was listed as a medium- to long-term option in the consultation document the government-appointed Task Force on Land Supply finished gathering public feedback on last month.

But officials were looking to speed up the New Territories North development schedule “and provide some land in the short run, since the Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai boundary control point will be completed by the end of this year anyway”, a source close to the government said.

“It implies that about 200 hectares of brownfield sites could potentially be released,” the source said, while another source confirmed Lam would talk about it in her policy address.

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At present, the area in question comprises rural settlements, farmland, and brownfield sites with open storage yards. Tens of thousands of residents are estimated to live there.

The Task Force on Land Supply last month submitted a preliminary report on the public consultation to the chief executive, naming the five most discussed groups of proposals. Developing brownfield sites was the only option that received widespread public support.

A preliminary study by a government-commissioned consultant, released in February, suggested two scenarios for the New Territories North project: providing homes for either 255,000 or 350,000 people.

That would equal the population range of seven to 10 Taikoo Shing estates.

According to the study, the development could provide 215,000 jobs and would take between 22 and 26 years to complete.

Its strategic location near Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta meant the area was suitable for industries such as logistics as well as innovation and technology, the study said.

A science park or industrial estate could be positioned some 500 metres from the southern edge of the Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai boundary control point.

Spanning 56 hectares, the area could house innovation, research and development industries.

The study also said development should foster an integration of urban, rural and natural components, while preserving established settlements and arable land.

Roy Ng Hei-man of environmental group the Conservancy Association said the New Territories North plan not only involved brownfield sites but also swathes of undamaged, privately owned farmland, as well as some ecologically important zones.

Ng was worried that fast-tracking the plan and using farmland owned by private property developers would increase the potential for collusion, given officials’ preference for public-private partnerships.

“Would this be an excuse for the government to move forward on the public-private partnership?” Ng asked.

He added that the entire debate on developing privately owned farmland should not focus on public-private partnership as the way forward but on which sites should be preserved and which ones could be repurposed.

Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao