More than 98 per cent of the submissions received by Hong Kong authorities were opposed to a controversial plan to build public housing on part of the Fanling golf course, the Town Planning Board (TPB) has said, as the Hong Kong Golf Club cited the city’s Asian Games wins in golf events as a reason to preserve the site.

Hong Kong Golf Club
The Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling. Photo: Hong Kong Golf Club, via Facebook.

The board revealed at a meeting on Tuesday that only 23 of the 1,903 valid submissions it received from the public were in support of the housing drive. The board previously called for the public to share their views on the plan to build public developments to address the city’s housing crisis on part of the Hong Kong Golf Club’s Fanling site.

The proposal has attracted criticism from the club’s supporters who say the course is a world-class facility that should be preserved.

The Environmental Protection Department in May conditionally approved a plan to build subsidised housing for 33,600 residents on a 9.5-hectare plot of the Fanling course.

But the plan hit a snag in August, when a court decided to extend the suspension of the approval of an environmental impact report that may allow the construction. A judge cited a risk of “irreversible” environmental damage and the course’s “important cultural heritage.”

The TPB meetings will continue on Thursday and Friday.

Leader vows golf support

Tuesday’s meeting came as Hong Kong’s golfing team saw a historic performance at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, with golfer Taichi Kho bagging the city’s first Asian Games gold medal in golf.

Asked at a regular Tuesday press conference about whether Kho’s achievements would prompt the government to reconsider the plan, Chief Executive John Lee firstly congratulated the athlete.

Fanling golf course
Fanling golf course. Photo: Wikicommons.

He said the authorities had “made a promise” to lend part of the plot taken back by the government in September to event organisers.

“Competition events can happen and there will be no problem with it, because we have promised we will give assistance including giving sufficient preparation time,” he said, without commenting on whether the government would press ahead with the public housing development plan.

Lee had said earlier this June that the government’s resumption plan would not affect international golf tournaments slated to be held in the city.

Asian Games wins

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, Hong Kong Golf Club Captain Andy Kwok said Hong Kong had the potential to make further achievements in golf, and asked the government to provide more support to the Hong Kong team by preserving the Fanling course as a “world-class” golfing facility.

Taichi Kho celebrates gold at the Asian Games on October 1, 2023. Photo: Taichi Kho's instagram.
Taichi Kho celebrates gold at the Asian Games on October 1, 2023. Photo: Taichi Kho’s instagram.

Kwok said the team’s training time had been cut by 20 per cent since the government took back part of the course last month, adding that golfers were not supported by the Hong Kong Sports Institute, and instead relied on the club to provide funding and training.

“The greatest gift for the Hong Kong team would be to designate the eight holes as training grounds, and not for anything else,” he said, according to local media.

The club, which had previously lobbied its members to air their views on the housing plan, was one of the bodies that voiced opposition to the plan on Tuesday. The Heung Yee Kuk – a powerful rural body – was also among those who opposed the housing drive.

Judicial review pending

Several grounds were cited for opposing the housing plan, according to the brief for Tuesday’s meeting, including environmental, cultural conservation, and sports development concerns.

high court
The High Court. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Among the grounds for opposition was the High Court’s interim order to put the government’s approval of the environmental impact report on hold pending a judicial review.

In response, the TPB said the court’s decision would in the meantime allow the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) to review the public housing plan in terms of the layout design, building height and development density.

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James Lee is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he witnessed the institution’s transformation over the course of the 2019 extradition bill protests and after the passing of the Beijing-imposed security law.

Since joining HKFP in 2023, he has covered local politics, the city’s housing crisis, as well as landmark court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial. He was previously a reporter at The Standard where he interviewed pro-establishment heavyweights and extensively covered the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong’s political overhauls under the national security law.