After a marathon planning process stretching back over a decade, a joint venture led by Henderson Land (0012) has finally been given the green light to proceed with its controversial Yau Tong shipyard redevelopment project.
The Metro Planning Committee of the Town Planning Board approved the planning permission application just before Chinese New Year, overriding the objections of some owners who were unhappy at some aspects of the joint venture’s master plan (see side story).
The planning application itself took nearly three years with the board having to defer its decision 10 times.
Henderson spokeswoman Bonnie Ngan Suet-fong said the consortium welcomed the permission of the Board.
“The next step would be land exchange,” Ngan said.
Matters such as the estimated premium for land exchange, the period to effect land exchange and get approval of building plans as well as total construction cost were as yet not known, Ngan added.
“There will be a hefty land use conversion/modification premium, especially at today’s prices, which Uncle Four [Lee Shau-kee chairman of Henderson Land] will have to shell out,” a former senior official at Lands Department said.
According to the minutes of previous board meetings, the members of the applicant, a joint venture company Main Wealth Development, include Henderson Land (0012), Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016), Hang Lung Development (0101), Swire Properties (0016), Wheelock Properties, Central Development, Moreland and Fu Tai Enterprises.
Although the applicant is Main Wealth, according to Land Registry searches, the company actually buying the land was Start Treasure.
Searches in the Companies Registry for these two companies show that Main Wealth is the biggest shareholder in Start Treasure.
When the ownership of both companies is looked at together, Henderson Land holds 23.6 percent stake in the project.
In its latest annual report Wheelock said it has an eight percent stake in Start Treasure.
A total of 28 residential blocks of flat in 14 clusters will be built along with four hotels and one block for government facilities with gross floor area totalling 494,974 square metres (532,790 square feet).
The number of flats built is planned not to exceed 5,231 with an average size of about 76 square metres (818 square feet).
According to the planning statement, phase 1 comprising of six residential blocks, a waterfront promenade and government facilities is scheduled for construction in the period 2014-2017.
Phase 2 with six residential blocks and the remaining waterfront promenade is set for construction in the period 2013 to 2019.
The timing of the construction of the remaining phases would depend on the objecting owners and the government.
The waterfront promenade with a minimum width of 15 metres and a total area of 24,700 square metres (265,871 square feet) will be open to the public.
To cater for pleasure boats, two flights of landing steps are planned.
The joint venture currently holds 83.4 percent of the land area under private ownership with the balance held by the objecting owners.
Ownership records show that the site assembly process started sometime around 1999 with Start Treasure signing agreements for sale and purchase (ASP) with the registered owners.
To date though, for the lots that Construction Post has inspected in a sample search, none of them have had an assignment signed which formally transfers ownership meaning the developer has not yet paid the full consideration.
Start Treasure did however sign four further supplemental agreements on the agreements for sale and purchase that extended the date for completion of the transaction.
One owner of three lots has been waiting for nearly 11 years for the balance of HK$421 million to be paid.
The Yau Tong project has seen a difficult development process over the years.
In 2002, the Environmental Protection Department approved an Environmental Impact Assessment report compiled to support reclamation in Yau Tong bay.
Had that scheme been carried out, there would have been about 13,900 flats built in 39 residential blocks housing 39,000 people.
However a 2004 ruling by the Court of Final Appeal regarding reclamation in Victoria Harbour put paid to any plans of reclamation in Victoria Harbour unless there was an overriding public need.
Subsequently the Town Planning Board looked at and then rejected three schemes by the developer in 2007 before a final plan for the comprehensive development area was fixed when the board endorsed a planning brief in 2010.