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Short to Medium Term Option
Alternative Uses of Sites under Private Recreational Leases
Relocation or Consolidation of Land-Extensive Recreational Facilities

Private Recreational Lease Sites

At present, there are a total of 66 Private Recreational Lease (PRL) sites in Hong Kong, which occupy around 408 ha of land in total. Of these, 39 sites occupying about 67 ha have been granted to social and welfare organisations, uniformed groups, "national sports associations" (NSAs), district sports associations (DSAs) and civil service organisations. These 39 sites are operated in a "quasi-public" nature, i.e. in general imposing no membership requirement for using the facilities; or, if there is a membership requirement, the membership fee is relatively low and there is no limit on membership size. Typical uses of these sites include camp sites and youth hostels run by charitable, religious and youth organisations, sports facilities managed by NSAs and DSAs, headquarters/offices of uniformed groups and civil service union/staff recreational facilities.

The remaining 27 PRL sites, which occupy a total area of about 341 ha, are held by private sports clubs. Recently, some in the community have suggested that land occupied by private sports clubs should be released for housing development.

From the perspective of increasing land supply, the Task Force considers that the society should have an objective and rational discussion on this topic, rather than taking a simplified, generalised view that either all private sports club sites should be resumed for housing development or all should be retained.

  • In the past, in particular during the initial period, there was an acute shortage of public sports and recreational facilities in Hong Kong. Hence the Government granted sites to community organisations and private sports clubs under PRLs for developing sports and recreational venues at nil or nominal premium. This arrangement has been in place for many years; some of the PRL sites have over a century's history of operation.
  • The Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) set up an interdepartmental working group to conduct a comprehensive review on the policy of PRL in 2014. HAB promulgated the recommendations of the policy review and launched a six-month consultation to solicit views of the public and stakeholders on those recommendations in March 2018.
  • In considering whether the PRLs concerned would be renewed upon their expiry, HAB proposed to review the contribution rendered by each of the private sports clubs towards sports development in detail and require the lessees to further open up their facilities so as to better complement and support sports development in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the role of the Task Force, from the perspective of land supply, is to set out the basic information, benefits and costs of development, challenges and timelines of all potential land supply options (including PRL sites), so as to help the community to make a choice.

The Task Force believes that the society can consider different angles as to whether individual sites can be released for other purposes, while striking a balance between the contributions of individual sites to sports development and increasing land supply.

Other factors should also be taken into consideration, such as whether there is a limit to the development potential of the land; whether the surrounding infrastructure can cope with demand; and the views of different stakeholders. If a certain site has considerable development potential but at the same time its existing use does contribute to sports development, an alternative site may need to be identified to relocate the facility. As such, it would take a considerable period of time to release the site for other developments.

"Land-extensive" Government Recreational Facilities

"Land-extensive" sports and recreational venues generally refer to those occupying an area of 3 ha or more each that are managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD). A total of 95 LCSD sports and recreational venues are considered land-extensive. They can be broadly divided into four categories: (a) sports grounds and stadiums; (b) parks; (c) holiday camps, picnic areas and water sports centres; and (d) outdoor swimming pools as well as recreational and sports centres.

The 95 sports and recreation venues are generally well-utilised by the general public. The possibility of relocating individual facilities should not be totally ruled out, so as to achieve more optimal site utilisation. In addition, some have suggested that, where possible, the Government can also consider relocating existing facilities to restored landfill sites, so as to release the land for other uses.

Benefits of Development

The Task Force would like to use the case of Fanling Golf Course (FGC) to illustrate the factors to be considered when developing PRL sites for other purposes, and the benefits and limitations of development. This case has been selected because there are views in the community that the land occupied by FGC should be released for housing or other purposes, and the site is the largest among the 27 PRL sites held by private sports clubs. In addition, Government-appointed consultants have conducted a broad assessment on the development potential of the FGC site from a technical perspective under the Preliminary Feasibility Study on Developing the New Territories North (NTN Study).

The FGC site of 172 ha is held under a PRL by Hong Kong Golf Club. It has three 18-hole courses. Its current lease will expire in 2020. The closest point of FGC is about 800 metres to the west of Sheung Shui MTR Station. There are a number of low-density residential developments bordering the northern and western periphery of FGC. Adjacent to the north-eastern boundary of FGC is a higher-density public housing development, Ching Ho Estate. Towards the east and south of FGC, the land is still mostly undeveloped with a higher concentration of active agricultural land and a predominantly rural character. The FGC site is dissected by Fan Kam Road. Bounded by trees and with the Dongjiang water mains running alongside, Fan Kam Road is a rural road, more specifically a narrow, two-lane roadway with traffic operating in both directions. No sidewalk or bike lanes are provided along Fan Kam Road.

Two development options of FGC have been examined under the NTN Study:

  1. Partial Development Option: this would involve releasing only the eastern part of FGC, i.e. the eight-hole "Old Course", for housing development, which would involve the 32 ha of land to the east of Fan Kam Road. This is on the assumption that the rest of FGC, which covers 140 ha of land, could still have the capacity and supporting facilities to host international golf tournaments. Higher-density residential developments are proposed in the north-eastern corner close to the existing Sheung Shui New Town while lower-density residential uses are proposed further away from the Sheung Shui New Town. The flat production in this option is 4,600, accommodating a population of about 13,000.

  2. Full Development Option: this would involve releasing the entire FGC for housing, commercial, government, institution or community, open space, and tourism/leisure uses. High- and medium-density residential developments are proposed in the northern and north-eastern parts of the FGC site closer to the Sheung Shui New Town. Apart from lower-density residential developments, commercial and tourism/leisure uses are proposed in the southern and western parts of the FGC site. The flat production from this option would be 13,200, accommodating a population of about 37,000. The commercial and tourism/leisure uses would provide about 12,000 jobs.

The Task Force believes that there is room to adjust the number of housing units under the two options, subject to detailed transport impact assessment, as well as the impact on conservation of trees and heritage, etc.

Besides these two development options, there are views in society, in particular within the sports sector, that the whole FGC should be retained for golf activities and hosting international tournaments, and to serve as a base for elite sports development and the training of young golfers. There are also views that part of the FGC can be used for other sports or recreational facilities which are open to the public.

Two development options of FGC examined under NTN Study
Partial Development Option Full Development Option
Location The area to the east of Fan Kam Road The entire FGC
Land released 32 ha 172 ha
Housing units 4,600 13,200
Population 13,000 37,000
Jobs 840 12,000

Partial Development Option
Source: Preliminary Feasibility Study on Developing the New Territories North

Full Development Option
Source: Preliminary Feasibility Study on Developing the New Territories North

For "land-extensive" government recreational facilities, there have been suggestions that the Tuen Mun Recreation and Sports Centre, which occupies 12.5 ha and comprises a golf driving range, a riding school, an archery range and an adventure park, can be relocated to other sites not required for development, hence releasing the site for alternative developments. In addition, there may be room for redeveloping the 3.5-ha Tuen Mun Swimming Pool into a multi-storey complex with some indoor pools for better site utilisation. Where feasible, the Government will also consider restoring closed landfills for sports and recreational purposes.

  • There are 13 closed landfills in Hong Kong. To render these landfills suitable for beneficial use, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) carried out restoration work on these closed landfills between 1997 and 2006.
  • Currently, six of these restored landfills have been developed into various recreational facilities, including Jordan Valley Park and Sai Tso Wan Recreation Ground.
  • To expedite the development of suitable facilities at the remaining seven restored landfills for beneficial uses, the Government has set up the Restored Landfill Revitalisation Funding Scheme and earmarked HK$1 billion to fund Non-Profit-making Organisations or NSAs to develop recreational facilities or other innovative uses at the restored landfills.

Costs of Development

According to the consultants' broad technical assessment, the Partial Development Option of FGC may be implemented independent of the New Territories North development subject to infrastructural improvements in terms of road interchange, sewerage, drainage and water supply. As FGC is located on Government land and lands resumption and clearance operations are not required, the Task Force considers that this could be a potential short to medium-term land supply option. Implementation of the Full Development Option will, however, necessitate improvement to the strategic transport networks and infrastructure, and is assumed to be taken forward together with the New Territories North development. Under the Full Development Option, there is also a need to consider whether the golf courses would be rebuilt elsewhere. Hence, the Task Force considers that this can only be a medium to long term land supply option.

The 95 land-extensive sports and recreation venues are generally well-utilised by the general public. Many are located close to residential or commercial areas to facilitate public enjoyment. Relocating or redeveloping such facilities would affect residents in the community. Relevant land searches for alternative sites, relocation and necessary feasibility studies would also take time.

Challenges and Uncertainties

Development of FGC for alternative uses is subject to a number of considerations:

  1. There is a cluster of historical buildings including Fanling Club House (Grade 2), Fanling Half-way House (Grade 3) and Fanling Lodge (Grade 1). Its Old Course is the world's second oldest course outside Britain, after the Royal Calcutta Golf Club's course in India. In addition, there are over 100 graves and urns scattered throughout the FGC;

  2. There are more than 30,000 trees in FGC, including some 160 potential Old and Valuable Trees and protected species;

  3. Under the Full Development Option, the widening of Fan Kam Road would involve substantial tree felling and appropriate arrangement for the Dongjiang water mains; and

  4. An annual international golf tournament (The Hong Kong Open) has been held at FGC since 1959. At present, FGC is the only venue in Hong Kong suitable for hosting this large-scale international tournament. The FGC is also the major training base for local elite and young golfers.

Detailed planning and engineering feasibility studies by the Government are required for whatever development option to be further pursued.

Restored landfills can be used for community recreational facilities. Nevertheless, development at restored landfills is subject to technical constraints. For example, the surfaces of restored landfills can only withstand limited loading and often exhibit uneven decomposition. Piling is also not allowed. Restored landfills in general do not have proper vehicular lanes, and the land use after restoration has to meet relevant planning and land use requirements.

Key Points

  1. Facilities run by private sports clubs make certain contributions to the sports development of Hong Kong. The review conducted by HAB in regard to the policy of PRL focuses on reviewing the contribution rendered by the facilities built on the PRL sites towards sports development. Meanwhile, the Task Force is concerned about whether the sites held by private sports clubs could be a feasible land supply option.
  2. The Task Force uses the FGC as an example to help society deliberate on the issue from different angles, including the contributions of individual clubs to sports development; whether the site has been put in optimal use; whether there is limit to the development potential of the land; whether the surrounding infrastructure can cope with demand; and the views of different stakeholders. If certain sites have considerable development potential and at the same time their existing use does make a contribution to sports development, alternative sites may need to be identified to relocate these facilities. Hence it would take a considerable period of time to release the site for other developments.
  3. Government-appointed consultants have proposed two preliminary development options for the FGC site for housing or other purposes. The Partial Development Option strives to balance the needs for both housing and keeping part of the FGC to host international tournaments. The Full Development Option, which proposes developing the entire site for housing, commercial, community facilities and open space uses etc., involves considerations such as whether there is a need to relocate the FGC, the significant infrastructural improvements for supporting the development scale, and a longer implementation timeframe. Despite the considerable challenges of developing housing within the FGC site, the Task Force believes there is room to adjust the number of housing units under the two options, subject to considerations on conservation of trees and heritages, and the level of transport infrastructure support. On the other hand, there are views in society that the entire FGC should be retained; or part of it should be converted into sports venues or recreational facilities which are open to the public.
| Last Revision Date: 5 December 2018