District council votes against suspending controversial Wang Chau housing project
Yuen Long district council on Tuesday voted against suspending the Wang Chau building project, which the government controversially dropped two phases of after meetings with rural leaders.
But the administration’s decision over the site continued to anger councillors from both sides of the political divide.
In 2014 the council passed the plan to build 4,000 public flats on the heavily vegetated green belt site. But many councillors have said the government never told them about the plan to build 13,000 more in two other phases on the site, leading them to make an uninformed decision.
It transpired this year that the government had set aside those two phases, on a brownfield plot – degraded agricultural land currently home to car parks, container storage and recycling yards – after informal meetings with powerful rural leaders in 2013.
Zachary Wong Wai-yin, a Democratic Party district councillor, said the government also misled the council by saying the green belt development would only affect about 20 houses.
The government said later that at least 180 households would be displaced.
“We were misled by wrong statistics to make an unjustified decision,” said Wong.
Wong Wai-shun, of the New People’s Party, said the government should learn a lesson from subsequent outrage over the informal meetings.
“[The meetings] were not open, were unjustified and unfair,” he said. “It was such selective consultation that led some councillors to be uninformed.”
Representatives from the Housing Department said the government decided to prioritise the green belt development because it needed less work.
The non-binding motion to restart consultation on the two plans as a whole was rejected, with five voting for, nine against and seven abstaining.
Around 10 rural representatives on the council did not attend the meeting, including Tsang Shu-wo, who controlled a large car park on the brownfield site. Leung Fuk-yuen, chair of rural affairs consultative body Shap Pat Heung Rural Committee, said if the public criticised informal meetings with rural representatives as collusion, there was no point in further discussions on New Territories development plans.