Underground Space Development in Selected Strategic Urban Areas (Stage 2 Public Engagement)’
HKIP has sought Members’ views on the conceptual scheme of underground space development of Kowloon Park in the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) West Strategic Urban Area (“the Scheme”) recommended under the Study and the views are set out as follows:
We appreciate that the conceptual underground space development scheme for Kowloon Park in TST, as a pilot underground space development recommended by the Study, has attempted to adopt underground space development as a means largely to enhancing connectivity in the study area. However, a longer term strategic and comprehensive planning approach to maximize the benefits of underground space development in the district context would be necessary to justify a more convincing cost-effective and visionary Kowloon Park underground space development plan.
Meanwhile, there is reservation on the open cut method to obtain the “huge underground space” in Kowloon Park which is a most valuable natural green space in the dense TST area. We should put the objective of minimising adverse impact on nature and green at the forefront instead of inviting more GIC facilities there which would mean more open cutting, more artificial greenery and more vent shafts in the Park at the end. Space for subways aligned with art walls and small shops which could be obtained through tunnelling method may probably be a more desirable approach.
The Study should explore in greater depth and wider scope in the district context for the potential of underground space development in terms of creation of solution spaces for provision/relocation of GIC facilities and other suitable facilities with a view to saving surface land for other beneficent uses as well as to addressing district planning needs/facility deficit and to meeting community aspirations for a better liveable environment. Accordingly, we see the following opportunities that warrant exploration:
1. explore relocation of the adjacent Haiphong Road Temporary Market Cum Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar into Kowloon Park underground space development to release this sizeable yet underutilized surface land in urban area for other beneficent uses;
2. explore accommodation and relocation of deficit GIC and other suitable facilities into Kowloon Park underground space development for meeting the community aspirations and resolving district issues. For instance:
(a) explore the potential underground solution space for meeting deficit GIC facilities or enhancing GIC and other facilities above minimum standards for a more liveable environment. The Study seems only single out the provision of an underground Community Centre without a comprehensive consideration on other GIC and suitable facilities;
(b) upgrade and/or consolidate existing facilities in meeting the needs of users from different sectors, origins and ethnic groups for inclusive planning and public space; and
(c) explore underground space development as solution space for coach parking for resolving the tourists’ coach parking problem in TST area.
Yet, an overall assessment on the provision of the existing and planned GIC facilities in the district is absent for public’s information. This is important to determine on the genuine need for incorporating certain GIC facilities in the Kowloon Park underground space whilst paying a price on the loss of the nature and green of our Kowloon Park. Most important of all, before targeting on the underground space of Kowloon Park, a thorough assessment on any solution space that can be made available in the Yau Tsim Mong District is crucial.
3. explore the potential of realigning the existing facilities in Kowloon Park (such as the swimming pool complex that was built 30 years ago, etc.) into Kowloon Park underground space development in the longer term, if necessary in stages, to release the surface land for other beneficent uses, in particular taking the future opportunities of such facilities due for revamp or redevelopment upon end of life-cycle. The release of surface land for other uses is certainly one significant financial justification for securing a cost-effective and visionary underground space development.
The design of the Kowloon Park, both above and below ground, should be welcoming for people of all ages, and individuals can flexibly choose any route to enjoy the park according to their personal preference or weather conditions. Relic and artworks to showcase the history of the park, TST district and Hong Kong would bring local characteristics into the walking experience and remind pedestrians, local and overseas, about the historical significance of the neighbourhood. Potential to establish urban or historical trail should be explored together with the park. It is undesirable for the underground pedestrian linkages to be designed next to car parking facilities. Walking routes should be designed adjacent to shop frontage or cultural exhibition spaces to improve walking experience.
Upgrading and promoting the existing pedestrian footbridge connecting Kowloon Park with China Hong Kong City and exploring the possibility to add an opening of the bridge to connect to the Gateway could relieve the pedestrian flow coming to and from China Ferry Terminal, the Gateway and MTR Station through Haiphong Road.
Seamless connection is encouraged. The proposed pedestrian passage on Lower Ground Level to Kowloon Park Drive (+6mPD) does not connect to any pedestrian crossing facilities. Relocating the park entrance to connect to Gateway Boulevard with an improved pedestrian crossing facility at the junction is suggested.
Underground Car Parking Space
It can be understood that loading and unloading facilities would be needed in the Scheme, we strongly question the necessity of having the proposed scale of car parking spaces at this main urban area, which has a good accessibility to MTR Stations of TST, East TST, Jordan, Austin and West Kowloon, bus routes and ferry terminals. Many world cities are introducing car freeze or free urban core, there is a need for Hong Kong to rethink traffic planning of our city centre especially ways to improve pedestrian walkability and environmental quality against rapid growth in car ownership and vehicular traffic/congestion. If it is designed well, having a “zero parking” scheme is not impossible.
In case car parking spaces are still needed after a detailed and thorough traffic study, automatic parking system should be adopted so that parking spaces could be arranged smartly and efficiently. Suitable traffic management measure must also be in place along with the planned facilities.
While retail is needed to ensure vibrancy, the increase in retail floor space should not outweigh the disturbance and loss of amenities of the park. Instead of planning retail shops along Austin Road, sports and cultural facilities are considered more appropriate.
Local land use shortfall and its relationship with the proposed uses in the Scheme should be carefully designed, and the possibility to consolidate and reshuffle the existing GIC facilities in the neighbourhood should be explored to better utilize land resources.
Nature and Greenery
A sensible and well-balanced planning approach to minimize the impact on the ecology is important. Disturbance to the Old and Valuable Trees, birds and the habitat during and after the construction should be maximally mitigated. It is not the preservation or transplanting of certain number of trees that could minimise the impact on our ecology. The disturbance of the natural greenery would have already prevented the birds returning to Kowloon Park. Worst come to worst, the Scheme shall avoid the displacement of greenery by chillers and vent-shafts as the impact would be permanent and irreversible
Since uses vary in different location and level of the Scheme, there should be a mechanism to exercise planning and land use control by strata, in addition to the conventional approach on the Outline Zoning Plan. Specific proposal should be examined and put forward as part of the study.
A planning and design competition could be considered, but the Scheme would not be successful without an appropriate implementation agent that could sustain the vibrancy of the development.
Public Affairs Committee of The Hong Kong Institute of Planners
16 Aug 2019