Joint effort urged for development

Joint effort urged for development

Secretary for Development Michael Wong

We published today in the Gazette the first phase infrastructure works of Kwu Tung North (KTN) and Fanling North (FLN) New Development Areas (NDAs) authorised by the Chief Executive in Council according to statute. We aim to seek funding from the Legislative Council for the first phase works in the first half of 2019 and commence land resumption and clearance for the first phase area in the second half. This is a significant step forward as the project is poised to enter the construction phase.

The development of the KTN and FLN NDAs (formerly known as the Northeast New Territories) involves large-scale resumption of private land (including brownfields) in the New Territories. Not only are the two NDAs a core part of our multi-pronged strategies, they are of critical importance to our housing supply in the medium and long term.

The KTN and FLN development has been beset with hurdles, and confrontations, since planning and consultation for the two NDAs restarted in 2008 (Table 1). Our experience shows that, while the NDA model provides a means to utilise existing land resources to make available sizable land for integrated re-planning, it is neither painless nor free of controversy. As Government-initiated NDA meets the definition of “public purpose”, the Land Resumption Ordinance will be invoked to resume most of the land in the two NDAs for development. Still, the development concerned will directly impact on existing land owners and users, including squatter households, farmers, rural workshops and brownfield operators.

Of the total area of 612.5 hectares (ha) for KTN and FLN, almost 50% is preserved for the Long Valley Nature Park (LVNP), green belt and agricultural uses. The actual development area is about 320 ha (Figure 1). Upon completion, the NDAs will provide 72,000 housing units (nearly 70% as public housing) for about 190,000 people and create more than 40,000 job opportunities. Population intake is expected to start in 2023 and infrastructure works to complete in 2031. Full implementation of the NDAs will thus take more than 10 years to complete, and in the process impacting a total of 4,200 people in 1,500 households, 440 business operators and 28 ha of active farmland.

Given the acute land shortage faced by our society, affected villagers and business operators would hopefully appreciate the wider public interest at stake in considering their own private interests. In pushing forward the NDA development, working out a solution to sensibly and reasonably compensate and rehouse affected villagers and business operators, and doing so in a manner which helps to minimise potential conflicts and facilitate the progress of clearance, have always been key challenges for the Government. Tackling such challenges calls for patient communications with stakeholders, as well as timely adjustments to implementation details, including revision to compensation and rehousing policies, where they are justified.

The first phase development will require resumption of 68 ha of private land, as well as clearance of 100 ha of government land, 18 ancestral graves and two urns. It includes two sites of approved land exchange applications covering a total area of about two ha, as compared with the 68 ha of land to be resumed by the Government in the same phase. First phase works covers site formation and engineering infrastructures, including roads and sewerage, construction of the Fanling Bypass, as well as establishment of the LVNP as an ecological mitigation measure. Taking into account the payment of zonal A ex-gratia compensation for private land to be resumed within the NDAs, the estimated land resumption and clearance cost will be over $13.3 billion, whilst the main works will cost about $18.2 billion, representing an average cost per sq m of land of about $19,000. These figures have yet to take into account expenditures regarding the provision of rehousing units for affected villagers (including means-tested public housing units and non-means tested rehousing units), assistance to farmers on agricultural rehabilitation, as well as the reprovisioning of the residential care homes for the elderly (RCHE) in Dills Corner Garden.

The compensation and rehousing arrangements approved by LegCo in July this year have gained broad-based support within the community. This shows that our society continues to be able to resolve problems and conflicts through patient and cordial dialogues and mutual understanding. In the coming months, apart from endeavouring to secure LegCo’s funding approval, we will continue to make the best possible preparations for land resumption and clearance for the first phase development. These include speeding up the screening exercise for the more than 400 households affected; offering assistance to the business operators who wish to relocate their business undertakings; finalising the timetable of phased clearance of the RCHE at Dills Corner Garden and ensuring the commencement of operation of the new RCHE complex in 2023 as scheduled; discussing with farmers options for agricultural rehabilitation; as well as rendering assistance as far as possible to villagers in handling their pets. We will also assess the number of affected villagers outside the first phase development who would wish to opt for early removal, and consider the necessary arrangements to be put in place.

Development of KTN and FLN NDAs has just reached a critical milestone. Having spent more than 10 years in planning, consultation and adjustment, we have now struck a reasonable balance between upholding Hong Kong’s wider interests and addressing the concerns of different stakeholders. Collaborative efforts from all concerned will continue to be required as we take forward the implementation of this and other NDAs. Let us work together and rise to the challenge!

This op-ed piece from Secretary for Development Michael Wong was published in local newspapers on December 14.

Table 1:     Major Events of Kwu Tung North and Fanling North Development

2008-2013 Resumed “North East New Territories” study with 3-stage public engagement. About 5,000 people attending a forum of September 2012 insisted “no relocation or clearance”.
2013 Executive Council (ExCo) agreed to go ahead with Kwu Tung North (KTN) and Fanling North (FLN) development first and special ex-gratia compensation and rehousing (C&R) arrangement for the NDAs.
2013-2015 Town Planning Board held 45 full-day meetings to deal with about 53,000 comments on the draft Outline Zoning Plans (OZPs) for KTN and FLN. Police assistance was requested after clashes between attendees and staff.
2014 Some people were prosecuted for trying to force their way into the Legislative Council (LegCo) building when a confrontation broke out while the Finance Committee (FC) considered the funding application for the first phase detailed design.
2014 ExCo considered arrangements for elderly homes at Dills Corner Garden.
2015 ExCo approved draft OZPs for KTN and FLN.
2015-2016 Over ten thousand objections were received each time when the original and revised schemes for first phase road and sewerage works were gazetted. Government met with objectors on various occasions to resolve disagreement.
2016 ExCo considered special rehousing arrangement for the NDAs.
2017 ExCo further considered special rehousing arrangement for the NDAs.
2017 ExCo considered new ex-gratia compensation arrangement for business undertakings.
2017 Dissatisfied with the C&R arrangements, the North District Council (NDC) requested Government to shelve the development plan.
2018 Enhanced C&R arrangement, approved by ExCo, obtained NDC’s support and FC’s funding approval. ExCo subsequently authorised road and sewerage works and land resumption limits.
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