HK 2030 : Planning Vision & Strategy (March 2002)
The Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP) welcomes the Government to initiate the second stage consultation process on the Hong Kong 2030 Study. In this consultation, a series of major land use policy issues have been raised for public input and comments. The HKIP would like to encourage all the sectors in the community to provide their opinions on these issues and participate in the process, which will eventually shape the future of our city.
Major Policy Issues Beyond Land Use Planning
The HKIP would like to emphasize that these land use issues stem from major policy matters that fall beyond the remit of the Planning Department or even the Planning and Lands Bureau. The questions identified in the 2030 Study cannot possibly be adequately addressed without the collective and concerted efforts of policy bureaux and indeed, from the highest level of the Hong Kong SAR Government. In fact, the policy decisions on these matters will drive the future land use planning and urban development pattern in Hong Kong.
The HKIP would like to request the direct, high level participation by different respective policy bureaux in open discussions on these matters, as part of this and subsequent consultation exercises. On the other hand, the Planning Department is encouraged to invoke discussion among the public on issues which are beyond the narrow definition of land use planning.
We now would like to provide our responses as follows.
Closer Link with the Mainland
The HKIP supports the development of closer socio-economic links with Mainland China, particularly with the Pearl River Delta. Hong Kong is part of the Pearl River Delta economic region and we must be fully integrated into this economic environment in order to sustain our growth. Land use and infrastructure planning must be guided by this over-arching intention.
However, there are inevitably legitimate concerns on the environmental impacts, financial feasibility, and the capacity of Hong Kong to support the construction of major infrastructure works. We would like to emphasize the importance of adopting a sustainable development and coordinated planning by all the relevant authorities in the Pearl River Delta in order to ensure the best use of the resources and minimize the unwanted impacts.
To proceed with such a planning objective, it is necessary to set up as soon as possible, an accountable regional planning coordinating group with high-level representations from the relevant governments in the Pearl River Delta region. This coordinating group should be responsible for the coordination of the planning of major transportation and infrastructure works in the region, based on sustainable development principles.
On the question of “mobile population”, we see a much wider spectrum of mobility than what is mentioned in the Consultation Paper. Despite the continuous existence of the SAR Boundary under the Basic Laws, the closer economic ties will make this Boundary more “transparent”. Different scenarios of trans-boundary personnel interflow should be looked at. The implications of the immense number of different types of transient workers/dwellers should be critically studied. The conventional population-based planning standards may have to be comprehensively reviewed.
Greater Responsiveness to Special Land Needs
There is inadequate information in the consultation paper on the background leading to the issue of ‘special land needs’. The HKIP supports the suggestion to streamline the land supply and production process in order to enable our city to make land available readily to meet our development needs. We also support the objective to plan our land supply ahead to support the need of economic growth. In fact, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation is undertaking such a role.
The production of land costs significant public resources. If land is serviced but then is left idle, this may mean unwise use of public fund.
On the issue that we might miss out valuable investment opportunities because we would not be able to make available large area of land within a short period of time, the HKIP urges the Government to clarify the exact extent of such short term demand based on the experience of the recent years. Are these opportunities exceptional situations or are they a common phenomenon? On the other hand, the Government should also explicitly indicate what exactly are the investment opportunities Hong Kong intends to attract? Do these opportunities have to be land extensive and are these opportunities matching the strength of our city in the international investment market?
The Government must clarify our investment policy, focus and action plans and put these in the context of our strength and constraints. These questions must be clarified before a policy on ‘Special Land Needs’ is resolved.
More Sustainable Use of Our Land Resource
We support the intention of the Government to consider relaxing further the use of old industrial buildings for non-commercial activities such as lofts, studios and home/offices. This is a creative approach to re-use our land resources.
The successful and satisfactory re-use or conversion of industrial buildings for these non-commercial uses are subject to factors such as building ownership, availability of social and community facilities nearby to support the development of a neighbourhood, as well as the issue of interface with existing industrial activities. We would suggest the Government to consider, based on successful completion of pilot projects, to request the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) to proceed to plan and implement the comprehensive renewal of industrial areas in our older urban area. The URA could be the best vehicle to push ahead the transformation of our declining industrial area into attractive districts of new neighbourhoods.
New Development Opportunities, Better Quality
The HKIP strongly emphasizes that our city is limited in terms of land resources. A sustainable strategy on growth must be put in place to guide the use of our land.
The community’s views against reclamation in the harbour area have been made very clear. Nevertheless, large-scale resumption of land in the New Territories will inevitably encounter property right issues, local opposition, compensation and disputes. This would be a very lengthy process with unpredictable time span for completion.
We would recommend the Government to make the best use of land that is already serviced by existing infrastructure before considering the development of virgin sites in the New Territories or reclamation. This means future land needs should first be met by increasing the density of developable land within the existing urban area. However, in a lot of our urban areas the room for further intensification is very limited and such a priority to densify our urban sites must be undertaken in parallel with the setting up of an effective and enforceable urban design control mechanism. The latter will ensure while we increase the development plot ratios in the urban area, we must make sure we still have high quality of urban space, attractive views, pleasant streetscape and comfortable environment.
On the need to develop Frontier Closed Area (FCA), we would like to see more justifications for this development need before this idea be taken further. The frontier area is subject to a multitude of factors that make its development potential limited. These include environmental impacts, access restraints, the need of access control to serve security policy needs, existing villages and topographical constraints, etc. Other developed areas such as Sheung Shui or Fanling are already physically very close to the border. Whether Hong Kong needs a ‘frontier development area’ is a question yet to be justified.
Essential but Unwelcome Facilities
The consultation paper has highlighted the issue of the need to provide land for major ‘unwelcome’ facilities such as waste treatment facilities, landfills, sewage treatment and pumping facilities, construction and demolition wastes and inert materials disposal outlets, columbaria and funeral homes, energy facilities, prisons, helipads, etc.
We acknowledge that these facilities are essential to the future development of Hong Kong, Most of them are seen as bad neighbours and the Government finds it difficult to provide sites to accommodate them.
The HKIP believes that these are necessary facilities to support and maintain the high quality of living in the city. The location decisions must be made with the wider community interest in mind, and based on comprehensive impact assessment studies as well as community input.
The HKIP also urges the Government to consider the land use issues for these ‘unwelcome’ facilities within a wider policy context beyond planning and land matters. For example, the provision of facilities such as waste treatment plants, land fills, sewage treatment plants, etc are closely related to the bigger policy of waste treatment, energy re-use, waste reduction/re-use/re-cycle. Aggressive policies on these matters will help to alleviate the pressure on land requirements. In view of the limited land supply our city can offer, the Government must pursue a more proactive, forward looking and progressive policy on waste management.
Better Planning for Waterfront Uses
The HKIP has previously expressed our support to pursue better planning and design for our valuable waterfront. We would like to re-iterate our views below.
The waterfront areas around our beautiful harbour are our assets. These areas should be subject to special design consideration. We urge the Government to amend the Town Planning Ordinance to enable designation of these areas as Special Design Areas (SDAs) in the Outline Zoning Plans. Development proposals located within the SDAs will need to submit urban design concepts and plans to the Town Planning Board for approval. The Government should also initiate design competitions for all the key public open spaces, civic buildings and public facilities such as the proposed cruise terminal and stadium, in order to achieve the best design for these landmark sites.
The Town Planning Board has previously issued the ‘Vision and Goals of Victoria Harbour’ that has received great support from the community. However, it will be very difficult to achieve the vision based on the existing institutional framework, which is characterized, by diverse jurisdictions and sometimes conflicting interests over our waterfront. We therefore believe that in addition to statutory urban design control and design competitions, a new mechanism or agency is needed to co-ordinate detailed planning, design and implementation of the waterfront lands, manage the public spaces and programme activities, and promote the waterfront both to the people of Hong Kong and also to the international visitors.
More Choices for Recreation and Sports
The HKIP supports the use of our reservoirs for recreation and leisure uses. In fact, such a policy and practice have been widely been adopted by many other cities and countries all over the world. There is no reason why we cannot maximize the use of these valuable leisure resources for the enjoyment and benefits of the people of Hong Kong.
We strongly believe that through good practices in management and education, the use of reservoirs for recreation uses will not pose any problems on water quality and water supply. We recommend the Government to put those older reservoirs near to major urban areas for these purposes as a priority.
Public Affairs Committee
Hong Kong Institute of Planners
23 March 2002