The Executive Council has approved a controversial town development plan in the New Territories amid fierce opposition from local villagers, with a project that can provide up to 60,000 new housing units.

The government said the appropriation bill for the project will be submitted to the Hong Kong legislature in 2016.

The new development areas were introduced by the government back in 2013 to solve the housing shortage problem. The new development areas would be integrated with existing areas to form three new towns in Fanling, Sheung Shui and Kwu Tong.

new town development plan
Northeast New Territories new town development plan. Photo: GovHK

Some of the villages located inside the proposed development area would have to be demolished, in order to pave way for the development programme. Concern groups, including the Land Justice League, voiced opposition to the plans in order to “protect the villagers”.

Concern groups also accused the Executive Council of not being able to solve the housing crisis in Hong Kong. Land Justice League said that the proportion of the entire development area for constructing public housing is less than 10 per cent and that the Fanling golf club – which has an area of 170 hectares – would be able to provide the same number of flats.

Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling
Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling. Photo: WikiMedia

They also accused the government and businesses of colluding to push through the development plan. Several major developers in Hong Kong purchased land in the areas when the government signalled its interest in developing the area.

The groups protested and attempted to break into the Hong Kong legislature on June 13 last year when the panel on financial affairs was debating on the appropriation bill for the preliminary work of the new development areas.

The bill was eventually passed on June 27 last year.

Land justice league court
Members of Land Justice League in front of court. Photo: Land Justice League

The concern groups accused the Town Planning Board of conducting closed door meetings on the development plan. They added that during the public consultation, the majority of responses were against the development and urged the government to shelve the scheme.

Some pro-establishment lawmakers have supported the bill. Regina Ip, chair of the New People’s Party, said during a motion debate in the Legislative Council that it was necessary for Hong Kong to work on development. She said the government should consider the zoning requests that have been demanded by different sectors, and that development should be used to cater for the needs of different industries.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan said he expected the first batch of residents to move into the new towns by 2024.

Eric is currently a Bachelor of Journalism student at the University of Hong Kong. Eric has his finger on the pulse of Hong Kong events and politics. His work has been published on The Guardian, Reuters and ABC News (America).