Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said that it would be difficult to redevelop a golf course and a chief executive lodge in Fanling for housing as the sites have decades-old trees, and Hong Kong has laws protecting them.
Leung has once again come under fire after suggesting in his final Policy Address on Wednesday that land of “low ecological value” in country parks could be developed into public housing and elderly homes. He included the proposal in his address despite strong public opposition received in the past for raising the idea.
On Thursday, Leung was confronted by disgruntled callers during a phone-in radio and TV show. A member of the public criticised him for his country parks suggestion, saying that brownfield sites had been left intact.
Another caller questioned why Leung did not consider building houses on sites occupied by the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling and the Fanling Lodge, an official residence of the Chief Executive.
Leung replied: “The lodge and the golf club are very important plots of land that serve recreational purposes, and they are open to the public for enjoyment. Another issue is that – if you have seen the places – there are many decades-old trees, and Hong Kong has laws protecting trees.”
“If we want to build houses there, we need to first tackle the issue of trees, meaning that we may need to cut trees on a large scale. If we accept large-scale logging, then there are other plots of land in Hong Kong that can be developed.”
He said tens of thousands of flats could be built on small plots of land in the country parks. If the government takes the lead in reclaiming and developing the land, as well as paying for the construction costs, housing prices could be lower than those of Home Ownership Scheme flats, Leung added.
Restating his position in the address, Leung said only land that is of low ecological value and sits on the edge of the parks would be considered for purposes “other than real estate development.”
The goal is to meet the housing needs of the middle class and the “upper working class,” he said
He added that the government has not begun studying the feasibility of developing country parks, and that he only raised the issue in his address in the hope of getting the public to discuss how best to “utilise such an important asset of society.”
On Wednesday, chief executive hopeful and ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing criticised Leung for his development proposals, while pledging that he would not develop land in country parks if he became the city’s next leader.