Landscape Value Mapping of Hong Kong - First Stage Consultation (Sep 2002)
The Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP) supports the initiative of the Planning Department to undertake a comprehensive landscape value mapping of Hong Kong. The mapping could provide the valuable baseline information for the assessment of landscape impacts of major development projects. The HKIP believes that the landscape quality of Hong Kong should be enhanced and protected during development process, through a systematic and objective evaluation process.
While we support the exercise to carry out the mapping, we would like to raise several issues and submit our suggestions as follows.
Objective of the Mapping Exercise
The HKIP understands that the objective of the mapping exercise is to prepare a geographical information system (GIS) based landscape map as the baseline information for assessing landscape impacts of major development projects. It is important to clarify this objective further with respect to the following questions:
What are ‘major’ development projects ? The types and scale of the projects to be assessed will affect the geographical unit, level of details and classifications of the landscape types to be adopted for the mapping exercise.
Do we have an established objective ‘landscape impact assessment ‘ process / methodology adopted by proponents of major public and private development projects in Hong Kong ? The way the landscape quality is classified relates closely to the impact assessment methodology itself.
Landscape Quality --- The Need of Valued Assessment
The HKIP supports the mapping exercise but would like to emphasize that for the baseline information to be useful, valued assessment of the qualities of the landscape units is needed. The current exercise provides a factual basis by identifying Landscape Character Types (LCTs) and Landscape Character Areas (LCAs) all over Hong Kong. However, what is needed on the top of the factual framework is an assessment of the ‘values’ that should be explicitly spelt out. The landscape value map should indicate which aspects of our landscape qualities, and at which parts of Hong Kong should be enhanced / protected.
We look forward to this aspect of the mapping exercise at the later stage of the exercise.
The mapping methodology needs to consider the following questions:
Landscape evolves and changes quickly at certain parts of Hong Kong. How will the baseline information be managed and updated to address this issue ?
The current classification method tends to represent the 3-dimensional landscape by a 2-dimensional map. This would potentially miss out one important attribute of our landscape: that landscape qualities are physical and visual in nature and the mapping classification methodology must be able to present the qualities 3-dimensionally.
The scale of the basic information unit (currently the mapping adopts a 5 hectare physical unit as the ‘pixel’) is of utmost importance. The choice of this base unit scale will affect the applicability and the effectiveness of the landscape value map in future landscape impact assessments. It is necessary to clarify the choice of the base unit with respect to the earlier question on the definition of ‘major’ development projects.
The landscape characters of Hong Kong are continuously changing due to major development projects and urbanization. The urban fringe areas are most susceptible to changes. The Planning Department should determine the best approach to ensure regular and timely update of the Landscape Value Map and the database. Without an efficient updating arrangement, the database will be rendered outdated quickly and its use will lead to problems in interpretation.
Public Communication and Use of the Information
The outcome of the mapping exercise is the Landscape Map. The HKIP recommends the following:
This baseline information should be made accessible conveniently to the public. However, the Planning Department should consider the potential effects of making available the landscape value map to the public in terms of disputes, possible differences in interpretation between the map and the existing statutory OZPs, as well as the perceived ‘development rights’ associated with the landscape values.
A standardized, simple, plain and consistent approach to interpret this baseline information should be set up and the relevant future development projects can then use the same baseline and method in the assessment. In this respect, the classification of the landscape characters and types should be designed to be self-explanatory as much as possible to ensure consistency in interpretation and updating in the future.
In addition to serving as technical base information, the Landscape Map should be used as an educational tool to raise the awareness of the public, school students and the community on the valuable aspects of our landscape heritage. Only through education our society will appreciate fully the importance of protecting our valuable landscape.
Public Affairs Committee
Hong Kong Institute of Planners
6 September 2002