The chief executive of the Hong Kong Golf Association (HKGA) has voiced his opposition to an idea put forward by a government panel to use land currently occupied by the Fanling golf course for housing development.
Turning the Fanling golf course into housing estates will be detrimental to the cause of sport, Danny Lai Yee-june told the Hong Kong Economic Journal.
Golf, as a sport, has been struggling to gain popularity in Hong Kong, so any attempt to diminish or take away the Fanling golf course will be a bad move, he said in an interview.
The comments came after a consultancy report unveiled by the government earlier this month suggested two alternatives for the Fanling golf course: develop an eastern part of the course into about 4,600 residential flats, or use the entire property to put up about 13,000 apartments.
The Task Force on Land Supply, which was set up last year to look into issues regarding land supply, come up with proposals to ease the long-term housing problem and build consensus on different options and priorities for further consideration by the government, has decided to put up both suggestions for public consultation.
Speaking on Tuesday, HKGA chief Lai made it clear that the association strongly opposes any plan that would require the Fanling golf course to surrender its land, whose current lease from the government runs through August 2020.
Other options should be explored for land for housing development, rather than convert a sporting facility into residential estates, he said.
According to Lai, golf in Hong Kong saw strong growth more than 10 years ago, but has since been stagnating in terms of the number of players. Problems arose as the government stopped leasing land to private operators, he said.
Amid this situation, any proposal to scale back or eliminate the Fanling golf course is a terrible idea, Lam suggested.
Noting that golf had been mistakenly viewed by some sections of society as a privilege enjoyed by only rich people, Lai criticized the government for not doing enough to make golf popular.
According to him, there are just about 100,000 golfers in the city at the moment, with growth having slowed significantly in recent years.
The government should retain the Fanling golf course, Lai said, adding that authorities should in fact allow more courses be built, including one at the Lok Ma Chau Loop, as well as a public driving range at the harbourfront.
The HKGA chief pointed out that Singapore currently has more than 20 golf courses, with one of them even being free of charge for users, even though the city-state is smaller in size compared to Hong Kong.
As to the suggestion that the Kau Sai Chau public golf course in Sai Kung can serve as replacement for the Fanling golf course, Lai said it is not practical as the former’s usage has become saturated. Also, its relatively remote location makes it hard to hold international competitions there, he added.
Lai told a radio program on Tuesday that although he understands there is huge public demand for housing, targeting the Fanling golf course for meeting social needs is really not necessary since the golf course is not Hong Kong’s last piece of land.
He suggested that the government should consider reclamation as an option to increase land supply.
Arnold Wong Chi-Chiu, captain of the Hong Kong Golf Club, who holds a similar position to Lai, said it would be very difficult to develop the Fanling golf course into residential estates.
He pointed out that there are three historic buildings and as many as 30,000 trees, plus ancestral graves, on the property.
Moreover, housing development on the site would necessitate relocation of the Dongjiang water pipe, he said, also noting that the terrain, which features many ups and downs, would require a lot of efforts to be flattened, adding to the difficulties of a housing project.
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