Construction work at the Discovery Bay Recreation Club to turn a lawn into a golf cart parking lot resumed on Thursday despite protests.

Excavation work began on Monday but was halted on Tuesday owing to a sit-in protest. Questions have been raised over whether the government gave proper approval for the work whilst Hong Kong Resorts, the company behind the project, said the new golf cart park complies with related government requirements.

The Planning Department told HKFP that the outline zone plan of the lawn did not permit it to be transformed into a golf cart or vehicle parking area. However, the outline zoning plan also stipulated that “all building, engineering and other operations incidental to… the permitted uses and developments within the same zone are always permitted.”

Works at the lawn of Discovery Bay Recreation Club. Photo: Amy Yung/Gardenia Kwok

“That said, any facilities within the existing Discovery Bay Residents Club (DBRC) [sic], including golf cart park, which are ancillary to the DBRC are always permitted within the same zone,” the Planning Department said. It added that Hong Kong Resorts had made a submission with further information regarding the ancillary nature of the proposed golf cart park and it was under review by government departments.

In a further reply, the department said that a “planning application is not required for excavation at the site.”

The development plan of the lawn. Photo: Amy Yung

Slow response

Civic Party Discovery Bay district councillor Amy Yung Wing-sheung questioned the ancillary nature of the golf cart parking lot, which will provide 90 parking spaces – more than any other facility nearby.

“They have no way to ensure the users are definitely the members of the club, how would it be ancillary to the club?” she said.

She said that she has sent further information to the Planning Department and Lands Department, but they have yet to make a conclusion. She said she was concerned that the lawn may be irreversibly damage as the excavation was carried out.

“It’s similar to what happened in the farmlands in the New Territories, when soil dumps have formed and [been] filled with cement – they become [permanent] parking lots,” she said.

Residents protested outside the construction site. Photo: Gardenia Kwok

Protests

On Friday, residents protested outside the site, although they were barred from entering by security guards.

“It’s obvious that they planned to build the golf cart parking lot, if they don’t know whether the lot was approved, why should they be allowed to carry on with the excavation?” asked resident Sara Lee, who joined the protest.

“It was a shame they will remove the trees from the lawn,” Lee said. “Therefore we sat down in front of construction site, to keep an eye on the development.”

Members of the club have organised shifts to monitor the construction work.

One of the development plans at Discovery Bay. Photo: GovHK.

Yung said that the project at the Recreation Club was not the only development at Discovery Bay that residents were concerned about.

“Last year [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying asked the Planning Department to draft development plans – two have been sent to the Town Planning Board,” Yung said. “We have provided valid reasons why the development plans were not good.”

Last July, Leung reportedly interfered in the processing of suggestions to increase the development density and the rezoning of residential land in Discovery Bay by its developer. The developer has close ties with Leung. Hong Kong Resorts submitted two planning applications in February, which proposed creating 1,601 housing units for 4,000 people.

Yung had said that the proposal, which sought to convert a vacant staff quarters on a hillside and a piece of land near Nim Shue Wan, may lead to population overload. The plans received more than 4,000 comments before the public inspection period ended last week.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.