Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong planning authorities stand firm on decision to reject plans for more homes in Discovery Bay

  • The board had said that giving approval to the scheme would set an ‘undesirable precedent’
  • Developer Hong Kong Resort Company tells High Court the planned development would entail an insignificant population growth
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 8:43pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2018, 10:32am

Hong Kong’s town planning authorities on Thursday defended their decision to reject plans to build more homes for the resort-like residential complex in Discovery Bay.

The area’s sole developer, Hong Kong Resort Company, had applied for a judicial review after the Town Planning Board turned down its proposal to convert an area originally designated for staff quarters into two residential blocks that could accommodate 1,190 people at Parkvale Village.

The board said in its decision on June 23 last year that the company had not yet used all the residential areas available, and that such an approval would set an “undesirable precedent”.

But the company felt the watchdog factored irrelevant issues into its decision and failed to consider key questions of what is the proper and best use of the area in the upscale neighbourhood on north-eastern Lantau Island – and took legal action.

Allow more space to build in Discovery Bay, urges developer

Its counsel Benjamin Yu SC told the High Court on Thursday: “The applicant feels very aggrieved because we set out in good faith to satisfy the government.”

Yu argued the board has a limited function and should not have considered the unused areas for that is a “wrong use of power”.

The character of Discovery Bay is retained. What is the basis for saying it will overstrain the existing planning and infrastructure?
Benjamin Yu, counsel for Hong Kong Resort Company

He also explained that the population growth projected in his client’s plan is an insignificant increase compared to the stipulated limit of 25,000 residents in the bay area.

“The character of Discovery Bay is retained,” Yu said. “What is the basis for saying it will overstrain the existing planning and infrastructure?”

The board’s counsel John Litton QC replied that it was not the board’s function to determine, on a free-standing basis, what the proper or best use of the land is. Instead he argued the right question for decision-makers concerns whether the land use is appropriate to the outline zoning plan as a whole.

Litton stressed that Discovery Bay is unique in that there is deliberate and careful planning, down to prescribing specific building heights and floor space area for each land user.

“It is conceived as a single composite, complete development … where different users complement each other and are ordered in a particular way,” he said.

So while the original planners did not preclude the possibility of an increase in population, Litton said any further development would have to comply with the general planning intention to provide low-density development compatible with the natural environment.

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And decision-makers would also have to consider whether there is sufficient infrastructure and environmental capacity to accommodate the added population.

“It is wrong, in my submission, to simply look at the area in isolation to ignore that it sits in an outline zoning plan which looks at the comprehensive development of Discovery Bay,” he continued. “[The unused areas] plainly is a material planning consideration.”

His reply continues on Friday before Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung.