Veteran lawmaker Regina Ip raises three questions to the government after Fanling Golf Course is temporarily rezoned to “Undetermined”

Regina Ip.

8th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong’s Planning Department has submitted a proposal to the Town Planning Board to temporarily rezone the proposed public housing site on the eastern section of the Fanling Golf Course to “Undetermined” (U). The Development Bureau (DEVB) has supported the proposal, stating that it will allow relevant departments to follow up on the conditions attached to the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, including a review of the layout design, building height, and development density.

The relevant site covers approximately 9.5 hectares of land on the draft Fanling/Sheung Shui Extension Area Outline Zoning Plan (draft plan) published last year, which was zoned as “Residential (Group A)” (R(A)) primarily for high density public housing development. The DEVB has pointed out that these development parameters will have to be adjusted in view of the conditions attached to the approval of the EIA report. The magnitude of adjustment is subject to the findings of the review and approval process, which will take time. Thus, it will not be appropriate to retain the current R(A) zoning with high density development parameters on the draft plan to be submitted to the Executive Council by the statutory deadline of end-November this year.

The DEVB has considered it prudent to rezone the site to “U” temporarily as a stopgap arrangement. Once the TPB has completed discussion of the draft plan in end-November 2023, the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) will commence a review, which is estimated to take about 12 months. Review outcomes are expected to be available around end-2024 for submission to the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) for consideration. Subject to approval of the reports, the PlanD will initiate the follow-up statutory planning procedure to propose appropriate statutory residential development parameters and corresponding land use zoning for the relevant site. As in the past, the public will then be consulted on the revised rezoning in accordance with the established procedure.

The DEVB has stated that the turn of events will inevitably affect the scale and timetable of the proposed public housing development. However, the Government has to respect and follow up on the conditions attached to the approval of the EIA report and offer professional and practical advice to the TPB on the follow-up arrangements. Although the relevant site is temporarily rezoned to “U,” the intention to develop public housing thereat is retained and stated in the Explanatory Statement of the draft plan. The temporary rezoning will provide a buffer period to allow the CEDD and relevant departments to follow up on reviewing the appropriate layout and development parameters.

The remaining southern portion of about 21.65 hectares east of Fan Kam Road in Fanling Golf Course has not been affected by the approval of the EIA report and is proposed to be zoned as “Other Specified Uses” annotated “Conservation cum Recreation” on the draft plan.

However, some have criticised the government’s move as a delay tactic, and there are those who oppose the construction of public housing on the site. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, the convener of the Executive Council and a legislator for the New People’s Party, had previously raised the issue in the Legislative Council and confirmed that the government had awarded a consultant contract to WSP (Asia) Limited last October to conduct research on the land reclamation, design, and construction of the site, at a cost of more than HK$30 million and a research period of up to 10 years.

Ip has expressed concerns and questions regarding the government’s eagerness to reclaim the land, given that it will take at least ten years to start construction after reclamation, and the government cannot immediately solve the land supply problem. She suggested that the old course land lease be extended for three years, allowing for research and handling in three years’ time.

Ip also questioned whether there would be enough space to hold the Aramco Team Series, the world’s largest women’s golf team tournament, scheduled to be held at the Fanling Golf Course in early October, if the government reclaims the old course land. She also raised practical issues regarding the management of the land and the provision of water and electricity.

Ip has lamented that “even if the government temporarily reclassifies the old course land as ‘undetermined use,’ it still raises many problems.