Legal challenge against Hong Kong government lodged over housing plan in Discovery Bay
Developer says authorities’ rejection of proposed rezoning is ‘tainted with procedural unfairness’
A Hong Kong-listed developer behind a resort-like residence in Discovery Bay has mounted a judicial challenge against the city’s development watchdog over its rejection of a rezoning plan.
According to a writ filed on Tuesday, Hong Kong Resort Company wanted to turn an area of 7,623 square metres, originally designated for staff quarters, into homes that could accommodate 1,190 people at Parkvale Village.
But on June 23 this year, the Town Planning Board declined to give the go-ahead, saying the company had not yet used all the residential areas available, and that such an approval would set an “undesirable precedent”, according to the court document.
The company, which built all amenities in Discovery Bay – the upscale neighbourhood on northeastern Lautau Island is also a popular weekend getaway for many Hongkongers – accused the board of failing to take into account relevant factors.
The decision the board reached was “tainted with procedural unfairness”, it said.
“The board took into account an irrelevant consideration in coming to the decision,” the writ, filed by law firm Mayer Brown JSM on the company’s behalf, said.
The document chronicled the company’s first submission of its proposal, in January 2016. The company subsequently withdrew the plan to make improvements following criticism from the Planning Department.
It submitted the new proposal in June this year.
But the writ stated that, despite the changes, the board went on to “copy” the words of the Planning Department, concluding again that the approval would give way to an “undesirable precedent”.
The company had five other plots of land that could be rezoned in the same way, the board concluded. It noted that the domestic gross floor area granted to the company, which can be used to build homes, had yet to be tapped.
Hong Kong Resort Company hit back in the writ that the board’s conclusions were wrong and the right approach would be to consider if the rezoning proposal was in line with certain building criteria. These include general planning and infrastructure, as well as environmental capacities.
Under the rules, a maximum of 25,000 residents was stipulated, but this could increase as long as the criteria were fulfilled. The company had aimed to boost the number of residents to 26,000.
While it admitted that there was unused residential land, the company said this was only granted by the Executive Council in principle. It had been applying for access to the land for the past 15 years, but had not heard from the Director of Lands, according to the writ.
“An application [that is] successful on one occasion would not and could not be regarded as a precedent for any future application,” the developer also said in the writ, adding that it had no intention to convert any of the remaining plots.
The company said that improved infrastructure on its development meant there was no need to reserve space for staff quarters.
It also accused the board of “100 per cent copying” the reasons suggested by the Planning Department when rejecting its application. It called the move an abdication of the board’s responsibilities as an adjudicator.