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MX News Update 2024

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Court hears dispute over golf course plan

The Supreme Court on Thursday held a hearing into an attempt to overturn the government’s approval of an environmental study into plans to build public flats on part of the Hong Kong Golf Club’s golf course.

The club’s Senior Counsel Benjamin Yu told the court that the environmental impact assessment had many shortcomings.

He argued that the government had said it would identify trees on the golf course that could be classified as ancient and valuable, but such findings were not included in the environmental report.

The lawyer said this is “vital” to the entire judicial review.

Yu also said the public consultation was not conducted properly or fairly because authorities were allowed to provide additional information during the review, but people’s responses to the submissions were not taken into account.

He said if the club had had the opportunity to comment further it could have pointed out that an additional study was not comprehensive in assessing the impact of the development on the aquatic habitats at the site.

The attorney noted that critically endangered Chinese bald cypress trees on the golf course are sensitive to hydrological changes.

Judge Russell Coleman said the environment should be given “the benefit of the doubt” and protected when there is a high degree of uncertainty.

Yu said the report also underestimated the ecological value of the area, seriously underestimating the different species of bats that live there.

He said the report listed only one bat species, while a separate survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation found 17.

Yu added that the golf course, which is more than 100 years old, should be considered a place of cultural heritage even though it has not been declared a monument.

He said it was “strange” that the environmental review concluded the immediate impact of building on the old golf course was “undetermined” when immediate changes would occur and the heritage would be destroyed.

The government took back 32 hectares of the golf course last year, with a plan to build social housing flats on nine hectares of the land.

The Supreme Court temporarily suspended the environmental investigation last year so the site could be preserved pending the hearing, which will continue on Friday.