Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung has said that the government has yet to come up with a timetable for phases 2 and 3 of the Wang Chau housing development plan in Yuen Long.
Construction of the first phase of 4,000 flats, which sits on greenbelt land inhabited by non-indigenous villagers, will begin in 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2024. According to feasibility reports released by the government, construction of the second and third phases – consisting of 13,000 flats – will begin in 2019 and be completed by 2026. However, they were delayed owing to opposition expressed by rural figures in “soft lobbying” sections – informal consultations – which brought accusations of the government bowing to rural powers.
“The duration in the reports by the consulting agencies was assuming that everything went smoothly, that it was the duration required for the [technical] procedures, but it is not the time we need practically,” Cheung said. “If it was like that, our world would be more simple [than it really is].”
He said the consulting agencies would not deal with the soft lobbying sections.
“But the informal consultations were only a process to warm up – when the government has formal suggestions, [we] have to completely follow existing procedures, and sometimes the law states that formal consultations are needed,” he said.
He added that for Wang Chau, the government will conduct formal consultation when it decides that phase 1 will be carried out, and it will conduct public consultation again when phases 2 and 3 are ready to go.
The phases 2 and 3 sit on a piece of brownfield site owned by multiple parties. Tsang Shu-wo, chairman of the Ping Shan Rural Committee, runs a car park on the site.
“We don’t have a timetable as yet because it all depends on how long the various arrangements [are] for transport, for electricity supply, for handling sewage – all these facilities will take time. In particular, we need time to deal with various environmental problems, including the provision of mitigation measures,” Cheung said.
“And, because of the area involving very extensive brownfield operations and some of these operations have environmental impact implications, and the location is close to the Yuen Long Industrial Estate – so you can imagine the extent of the environmental issues that we have to deal with, including decontamination when we take over the land.”
Cheung said the government has to be “very careful” when dealing with brownfield operations. “Some of them are important to our economy,” he said, naming logistics industries, waste-recycling and port back-up.
“We have to have a good strategy in re-provisioning some of these activities,” he said. “But as the Chief Executive has reiterated some time ago, developing phases 2 & 3 of Wang Chau is still part of the government agenda and we are soon to commission a more detailed study on how to deal with the brownfield operations.We are going to take the two phases forward as soon as we have prepared ourselves on measures to deal with those problems that I have just mentioned.”