A member of the Liber Research Community on Wednesday labelled as "absurd" a suggestion that the government use farmland in Sheung Shui for public housing and urged the administration to press ahead with plans to build on part of the Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling.
Rural body the Heung Yee Kuk on Tuesday proposed using what it described as abandoned farmland at Ping Kong Tsuen as a location for 12,000 public flats, saying the flat land would make it easier to develop. The Kuk denied that its plan was an alternative to using the land at the golf club, but said the farm location could be completed faster.
Speaking on RTHK's Hong Kong Today programme, Brian Wong from Liber, said that the farmland was in fact some of the best in Hong Kong and should be maintained for that purpose.
"I'm not going against golfing, it is a decent sport," he told RTHK's Samantha Butler. "But when we have to choose between just taking 5 percent of the area of the entire golf course and the best remaining farmland in Hong Kong to so-called sacrifice, I think by weighing the pros and cons the choice is pretty obvious."
Wong also disputed the Kuk's suggestion that homes could be build more quickly on the farm site.
"When the government has faced a lot of difficulties and hurdles in finding land for public housing, there is a good piece of land, nine hectares large, that the government can resume immediately without any cost by September of this year.
"The government does not need to spend a single penny in taking back that piece of land because the land lease will expire immediately, by September."
Debate has raged for years over the idea of using part of Fanling's Old Course for homes. The government now plans to take back 32 hectares of land from the club, of which nine hectares will be used for 12,000 public flats.
Last month, the Environmental Protection Department approved an environment impact assessment on the site, setting conditions on tree preservation, landscape and visual aspects arising from the proposed housing development.
In response, the Hong Kong Golf Club said it deeply regrets the conditional approval, saying the project was "tantamount to trampling over an important piece of the city’s culture and heritage, as well as the culture and history of the indigenous villagers of the North District".
The Development Bureau has since said it would change the proposed use of the plot from residential to “undetermined” but that the government still intends to build public housing there.