Ex-Lamma Quarry Area at Sok kwu Wan, Lamma Island - Feasibility Study (Feb 2013)
HKIP PAC’s comments on the ‘Planning and Engineering Study on Future Land Use at Ex-Lamma Quarry Area at Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island – Feasibility Study’ Stage 1 Community Engagement
1. The “Vision and Guiding Principles” appear to be significantly lacking in terms of the bigger picture or territorial context with regard to the potential and possible roles of Lamma as a whole. The current study simply focuses on the ex-quarry site and its immediate adjoining backdrop, so the wider and crucially important context is missing. The Vision no. 1 is stated as “unleashing development potential of the Study Site”. However this has not been achieved because of a lack of a fuller picture of what Hong Kong as a whole needs in the long term, and how Lamma, given its unique, detached geographical location and wealth of ecological and heritage assets, would differ from any other sites. Amidst the very compressed study timetable within which the Study team produced a number of “Options” (to engage the Focus Group at the last minute), we expect to firstly see an overall planning analysis including more elaboration with respect to Hong Kong’s policies on tourism development, Lamma’s absolute and comparative values in terms of ecological and heritage conservation, and the opportunities and constraints of putting a large amount of housing on this site. There appears to be no technical papers or analysis on these important aspects. We have only been given two options which are very similar - varying from 1000 to 2800 dwelling units, plus a large lake and a promenade.
2. The present Study approach has substantially constrained an otherwise wider scope /planning horizon and possible inception of more constructive and creative ideas. The Study simply seems to reflect, in an overly hurried way, the recent Policy Address proposal for more housing production to justify residential land use in an extremely difficult and sensitive offshore island site. However, the proposed residential uses are extremely questionable. We can understand that the Study area cannot be used to accommodate large scale public housing types of developments, for that would likely require the provision of substantial infrastructure and transport linkages – which in turn would bring about great environmental impacts. On the other hand, other than recreation use, the consultants could have considered alternative uses which are less demanding on external transport/traffic requirements, such as education or government related uses. To identify such suitable alternative uses , the Study should have explored opportunities of exchanging the potential of this site with existing and proposed large scale G/IC land uses in the urban area. Such an exchange could release vacant sites in locations in the urban area much more suitable for medium to high density housing development.
3. Alternative and additional potential uses which could help boost the local mari-culture business (plus eco-tourism) could also be a possibility. The corollary would perhaps be to undertake a preliminary economic analysis to ascertain the possible uses and viable “critical mass”, instead of superficially accommodating a small quantum of different uses with little in the way of justification.
4. All the above suggests a need for a strategic planning framework. This should lay down the basic principles from the viewpoint and needs of Hong Kong as a whole, rather than a conventional real estate approach to an individual site. It is doubtful that this is a prudent approach, and seems to have learned nothing from the experience of the “Sea Ranch” failure in the past.
5. The large man-made lake is another moot point. Given the proposed population, this hardly justifies this provision. If the lake park is intended to become a public recreation/leisure venue, then this needs to be fully justified, and all criteria set out. Visitors go to Lamma to appreciate, as far as possible, a natural environment, whereas this type of facility is far better attuned to urban parks.
6. We suggest that all these aspects are properly addressed before proceeding to the next stage of work, even if this requires revisiting the original Study Brief. We furthermore suggest that the Brief is circulated to appropriate Professional Institutes for comments. Above all it is necessary to recognize the uniqueness of Lamma Island, its environment and role as a significant recreational resource.
7. This stage of work – a 2 month stage, called the “Stage 1 Community Engagement, which focuses on the land use concepts of the initial land use options”, was launched on 7 December 2012. Yet the Focus Group meeting was held on 6 Feb 2013, which is the last day of the stage. Immediately after this date, the study team has evidently been requested to proceed with the “Preferred Option Finalisation Phase” with an aim of completing it by end 2013, despite the fundamental issues regarding the Visions and Basic Principles about the Study raised by stakeholders attending the Focus Group. The study phasing should include a feedback loop after the Stage 1 community engagement before proceeding directly to the finalization of “preferred option”.
8. We fail to understand why this study is being directed by CEDD within a very compressed programme when it should clearly be a planning study with strategic, environmental and economic input.
Public Affairs Committee
Hong Kong Institute of Planners