Five non-indigenous villages in Hung Shui Kiu will have to go to make way for the development of a proposed new town in the northwest New Territories, the Development Bureau said yesterday. This came as the government announced a final three-month consultation on the new town's design. It is expected to house an additional 173,000 people in 60,100 new flats, half of which will be public housing. A spokesman for the bureau said five out of 22 villages in the proposed development area could not be kept as they were located near the future Hung Shui Kiu MTR station. The other 17 that will be kept are all indigenous villages. He said he did not know how many villagers would have to go. "We have tried to minimise the impact on existing villagers and avoided villages that are well established as far as possible," he said. "If the [five villages] are to stay, it would affect the integrity of the new town." The spokesman said affected villagers living in around 1,500 buildings could, if they are eligible, choose to be compensated or rehoused in the new town as a site had been earmarked for that purpose with 1,800 flats. He also said when officials consulted villagers, not all of them were against the plan. Yuen Long district councillor Tang Ka-leung said he had spoken to people living in the non-indigenous villages and they did not have strong views on the plan except to be rehoused locally and receive a reasonable compensation package. "My concern is whether affected villagers will be compensated fairly. If not, there could be conflict like we saw in other developments," he said. Storage facilities for containers and construction material and car repair workshops will also go to optimise land use. The bureau said preliminary studies suggested it was feasible to move these facilities into multi-storey industrial compounds. Officials will distribute questionnaires to seek operators' views. But despite allegations of collusion with developers over the provision of private flats in new developments in Kwu Tung North and Fanling North, the bureau said it was considering adopting the same approach in Hung Shui Kiu. Under that arrangement, the government will resume land required for development while allowing land owners to apply for land exchanges involving individual sites zoned for private flats subject to certain conditions. The spokesman stressed that the government would lead the development programme according to its own timetable. According to the latest proposal, the total area of the new town - positioned as a regional economic and civic hub - is 714 hectares. The development will provide 150,000 new jobs, 50 per cent more than the figure stated in the last consultation. The extra jobs were made possible because the maximum plot ratio for commercial sites has been increased, generating a total gross floor area of about two million square metres for office, retail and hotel use. The bureau said its target was to begin site formation in 2020 and have the first batch of people moving in by 2024. Officials expect the new town to be fully developed by 2037.