Thu, Feb 21, 2019 - Page 6 News List

HK to partially develop golf course for housing

AFP, HONG KONG

Hong Kong yesterday earmarked a slice of its historic Fanling golf course for public housing, a controversial plan that exposed the territory’s dramatic social divide and was resisted by international golf stars.

The Hong Kong government said it had accepted a proposal to take back less than one-fifth of the exclusive, 170-hectare course as authorities scramble to find new land for housing in the world’s least-affordable property market.

The colonial-era course is part of the Hong Kong Golf Club and has hosted the Hong Kong Open, a mainstay of the European and Asian Tours, every year since 1959.

The club has argued that sacrificing a world-class sports venue is short-sighted, a stance echoed by top golfers who spoke out against the plans, including Rory McIlroy and local star Tiffany Chan.

However, campaigners said that the prime spot should not remain a playground for the wealthy elite in a territory crying out for cheaper homes and more space.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) yesterday told the Hong Kong Legislative Council that she accepted the decision would “offend and upset some people,” but her administration has “to strike a balance in a difficult situation for the greatest public good.”

The complex is an oasis of ancient trees and diverse wildlife, including turtles, owls and butterflies.

The oldest of its three 18-hole courses was built in 1911 on land that was home to the centuries-old graves of indigenous clans, whose descendants now have to skirt the greens to pay tribute to their ancestors.

Under the plan, only 32 hectares of the 172 hectare venue would be primarily turned into public housing, allowing the rest to continue to operate as a golf course.

Other proposed solutions to the housing crisis also approved yesterday include developing brownfield sites and large-scale reclamations, as well as building underground space.

While the golf course plan represented a rare agreement between Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government and progressives, others proposals have met wider resistance.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against vast reclamation plans around Lantau Island, citing colossal multibillion-dollar costs and the potential environmental impact.

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