Residents in the Hong Kong Island neighbourhood of Quarry Bay on Sunday formed a concern group to counter a reported government study to build subsidised housing on a two-hectare site at scenic Mount Parker.
The group collected about 350 signatures in one week through an online petition to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun to contest the development.
District legislators also submitted a document opposing the plan to Eastern District Council. The document will be discussed in a council meeting on April 9.
Derek Ngai Chi-ho, convenor of concern group Save Our Woodside, said he set up the group after learning from the media that the government was considering building subsidised flats for more than 10,000 residents on Mount Parker behind the residential estates of Kornhill and Nan Fung Sun Chuen, where more than 10,000 people live.
The study also includes plans to upgrade transport in the neighbourhood, such as widening existing roads and building new motorways and tunnels.
Ngai, who has been living in Kornhill for 10 years, said the group was against the plan because it wanted to protect the area's greenery and prevent a traffic gridlock, as well as avoid a drop in the quality of life due to overcrowding.
The government is seeking 1,200 hectares of land to meet demand for new homes and for other development in the city. But the group asked why the government was thinking of developing Mount Parker as it had earlier indicated its priority to study the development of 760 hectares of brownfield.
"The Development Bureau promised earlier that it would not seek to develop more areas on the periphery of country parks because most of the public do not support this, as a consultation by the land supply task force showed," Ngai said. "This plan to develop areas on the periphery of Tai Tam Country Park contradicts what the bureau said."
He added that this was not the first time the government planned to develop the area, but previous proposals had been abandoned because of strong community opposition. In 2013, the English Schools Foundation wanted to rebuild an ageing campus there. Its board dropped the plan in 2013 amid opposition from lawmakers and residents.
Andrew Chiu Ka-yin, Eastern District Council member, said he and other district legislators including Derek Patrick Leung Siu-sun, Bonnie Leung Wing-man and Howard Cheung Kwok-cheong had submitted a document to the council to oppose the planned development.
The use of the two-hectare land on Mount Parker has been listed as government, institution or community land. It is near Woodside, also known as the Red House, first built in 1920s. The red brick house, which was declared a grade two historic building in 1998, has been revitalised as an education centre specialising in Hong Kong's biodiversity under the auspices of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
Bonnie Leung, who is an adviser to the group, said the Development Bureau replied to her query about the news. It stated the land was still reserved for the Education Bureau to build schools and there was no change for now.
But Leung said the community was worried that news of the proposed development was leaked to the media before the government's official announcement to test the water - as had been the case previously.
Leung noted this was not an issue about the local community's own backyard, but would affect all communities connected through major transport projects in the whole Eastern District of Hong Kong Island.
"The consequence will be much bigger because it will bring lots of pressure to the main King's Road thoroughfare such that its capacity cannot sustain," Leung said, adding that the 30 or so bus routes that currently ply the road already cause congestion problems.
Daisy Lee, a resident of Nan Fung Sun Chuen for more than a decade, urged the government to stop any development in the area and to leave it for public use.
"Like many residents who have lived here for more than 10 years, we really treasure this neighbourhood," she said. "I don't ask the government to offer help to improve our facilities. I just hope the government won't do damage to our living environment."
A spokeswoman from the bureau refused to comment on the media coverage.
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