Hong Kong Golf Association (HKGA)

Rugby ground in Tin Shui Wai saved from bulldozers; Hong Kong now awaits decision on Fanling golf course

  • Application to ‘re-zone’ the sports ground is withdrawn before a Town Planning Board meeting
  • Golf community awaits land supply task force decision on the fate of its courses
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 6:57pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 10:48pm

Hong Kong sport won a minor but significant victory in its never-ending battle to preserve grounds with the proposal to re-zone the Tin Shui Wai rugby pitch withdrawn.

However, the sporting community is nervously awaiting results of a land supply task force study, expected to be announced on Monday, that may result in bulldozing and redevelopment of the Fanling golf course – home to the Hong Kong Golf Club and the 60-year-old Honma Hong Kong Open.

The Hong Kong Rugby Union has revealed that the re-zoning application that could have turned Tin Shui Wai Sports Ground into a shopping mall and car park had been withdrawn before the government’s Town Planning Board could discuss the matter.

“This is obviously fantastic news,” said HKRU CEO Robbie McRobbie. “We’d like to thank everyone here in Hong Kong and indeed around the world who wrote submissions to save the pitch, or showed their support in many other ways.

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“We said all along that we strongly believe that sport plays an important role in society, and you only need to look at what the [Tin Shui Wai-based teams] Eagles, Pandas and Operation Breakthrough rugby clubs have achieved in Tin Shui Wai to understand what an impact the loss of that pitch would be.

“We look forward to many more years of working with our friends and partners in Yuen Long District to help make a positive impact on the lives of our young people, and help them realise their potential, on and off the pitch.”

The union launched an urgent appeal to the public in late October to put pressure on the government to refuse an application to rezone a 10,486 square metre area in the heart of Tin Shui Wai.

The Union had spent more than HK$40 million in improving facilities at the ground, which has served as a successful grooming arena for local rugby players.

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The application was made by Mo Kai-hong, who identifies himself as the community organiser of the Tin Shui Wai New Force.

Mo said he wanted to “raise discussion” about the overall “unbalance” in planning over the past 20 years in Tin Shui Wai. It is not known why the application was withdrawn.

While Tin Shui Wai has been saved, Fanling’s future is less secure.

Earlier this month, a land supply task force source told the South China Morning Post that the unit narrowed down 18 proposals to ease land shortage down to eight – with the digging up and development of Fanling one of the preferred options.

“It was a unanimous decision to redevelop part of the golf course,” the source said.

The results of the study are expected to be announced on Monday and the Hong Kong Golf Association said it would hold a committee meeting on Thursday to formulate its response.

HKGA chief executive Danny Lai added: “We hold our usual stance.”

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Lai had previously highlighted the importance of Fanling to the development of golf in Hong Kong.

“The clubs have been providing all the training facilities for our players, especially the Hong Kong Golf Club and this is pivotal to the future of golf development in Hong Kong,” said Lai.

“We are now a tier B programme at the Sports Institute and we are working hard to gain tier A status like the elite sports such as cycling, badminton and swimming.”

Fanling is also home to Hong Kong’s oldest professional sporting event, the Hong Kong Open. This year’s winner, England’s Aaron Rai, and past winners such as Scott Hend and former US PGA Champion Rich Beem have added their support to the preservation of all three courses on the 170-hectare plot.