HK 2030 -3rd Stage Public Consultation (Dec 2003)
The Need for "Hong Kong 2030"
HKIP recognizes the great difficulties in making accurate assumptions for planning scenarios in 2030. This is particularly so in the context of Hong Kong's open economy on one hand and the fast growing economy of the Mainland as well as the rapidly changing political and economic dynamics of the world on the other. However, it is considered that the study provides a useful framework to involve the public in identifying the strategic issues, understanding options ahead of them and in making choices for the future.
Enhancing Quality of Living
Hong Kong's physical development has been based on a high concentration and high-density model. People in general live in rather crowded conditions. However, they enjoy great convenience in their daily lives and extensive undeveloped countryside for recreation, natural and historical heritage conservation.
"HK2030" is suggesting to lower plot ratios from 8 to 6.5 in New Development Areas (NDAs) both in the New Territories and in the Metro Areas, HKIP supports the proposal particularly when large sites (many larger than 3 ha each) are involved. In appropriate circumstances, i.e. no block layout plans are prepared for testing, large site reduction factors should be applied. The massive developments in Tseung Kwan O and West Kowloon Reclamation with high-rise tower blocks on a large podium result in unpleasant townscape and a lack of street life.
However, if development density is to be lowered in the old urban areas, it may affect the financial viability of redevelopments which can also help to improve the quality of living for those who are living in dilapidated building conditions. When public housing estates are involved, it is even more important to ensure that the density allows adequate rehousing units to be built in the Metro Areas. There is always a choice between convenience to work and better living environment in the New Territories.
For a high-density development mode, more research is required in planning for town layouts and building design for development sites particularly when the sites are of significant sizes. More environmentally and socially conscious approach should be adopted to ensure an overall enhancement in the quality of living. More comprehensive redevelopments would have greater scope for improvement to its neighbourhood.
By 2031, 24% of the population (i.e. about 2 million) would be aged 65 and above. Should we not plan ahead for the needs of this population? The elderly population would be quite different from the existing one. A larger proportion would be educated, financially more capable and have higher aspirations for better quality of living. They do not have to work and therefore do not necessarily live in the expensive urban areas. But unlike the present elderly population, the future elderly people would have less connection with people in the mainland and may unlikely opt for retiring in the mainland. Therefore, their needs would have to be satisfied in Hong Kong.
Enhancing Economic Competitiveness
Closer Co-operation within Pearl River Delta Region
While the Chief Executive of HKSAR has been putting a lot of emphasis and expectation on closer co-operation within Pearl River Delta Region in recent years, there is little evidence of any partnership approach in "HK2030".
Take the Airport as an example. In "HK2030", the prospect of having to commission the third runway is discussed. Is there any possible division of labour among the neighbouring airports? If better feeder services are provided, Hong Kong people may use the Shenzhen International Airport for domestic flights and short distance freight transport. Hong Kong International Airport can concentrate on developing international and long haul flights to optimize the use of the existing infrastructure. Before committing to a third runway, the environmental impact on Tung Chung New Town and other areas under the flight paths should be carefully assessed.
Further container port development may result in more heavy traffic within the City. The economic benefits of increasing employment and the environmental costs should be carefully evaluated and made known to the public before intelligent choices can be made.
Tourism development will create jobs for the relatively low-skilled workers who are most vulnerable in the economic restructuring. The Government should make extra effort in developing more tourism attractions of different scale and interest and to facilitate the provision of ancillary facilities such as hotels and cross-boundary facilities. Tourism development may not just rely on major tourist nodes. Minor attractions can be packaged to form integral parts of the total experience.
The concept and the objectives are rather vague. If through this university town development, some valuable urban sites could be released, it may offer opportunities for rationalization of land utilization.
With possible mass transit railway connection, harbour view, government ownership and a well-designed urban environment, the former Kai Tak Airport is considered to be a suitable site for a new premier office centre in the long run. However, one should not lose sight of the possible contribution from the private sector in the renewal of the old industrial areas. A successful example in hand is Tai Koo Place. Multiple ownership is certainly a great problem to overcome. But the Government may establish new land policies to encourage amalgamation and redevelopment at industrial areas which have large lot sizes and easy accessibility to mass transit railways.
Strengthening Links with the Mainland
Use of Frontier Closed Area (FCA)
It is not apparent that there is any urgency in developing the FCA. For its long term potential, HKIP accepts the criteria adopted by "HK2030" in assessing the suitability of certain land uses at the FCA. Among the 3 proposals, i.e. trade expo, high value-added/high-tech production and logistics activities, trade expo appears to be more appropriate to tap the unique locational advantages at the Lok Ma Chau Loop. However, more thorough market research among the different provincial governments in the mainland is necessary. If Hong Kong can contribute towards the economic developments in the less developed areas of China through trade-expo, it should be most desirable.
HKIP notes that the current consultation is the third in a row. The open and transparent process adopted for the 2030 Study is therefore commended. By actively involving the public in the planning process, HKIP believes that this will help to enhance people's sense of belonging to Hong Kong.
However, it is difficult to decide on options if the consequences are unclear. The development scenario for 2030 is very optimistic with 9.2 million population, nearly 50 million TEUs for the port throughput, 105 million passengers by air services, and 70 million visitors arrivals. It is essential to conduct strategic environmental and traffic impact assessments to ensure that the cumulative impacts of all the New Development Nodes and the new infrastructure are acceptable. "HK2030" provides the most appropriate opportunity for Hong Kong to determine if the City is heading towards sustainable development.
Public Affairs Committee
Hong Kong Institute of Planners
1 December 2003