'Shift cargo sites, build homes'
Moving open storage and dump sites in the northeastern New Territories would yield enough land for housing to allow developments equivalent in size to a new town, according to a veteran town planner and campaign adviser to the chief executive-elect.
'The open storage areas are of economic value but they need to be relocated to places with better management, where their impact on traffic and environment are minimised,' Andrew Lam Siu-lo said.
Lam, who has experience in new town developments, predicted that the New Territories would take up a more substantial role in the city's future planning. More transparency would also be given to land supply and land use rezoning to stabilise the housing market, he said.
The chief executive-elect, Leung Chun-ying, says he intends to increase land supply to meet market demand. Lam said the open areas used for storing cargoes, sorting waste, repairing cars and processing wood in Yuen Long and Northern District should be relocated to sites in a concentrated area with basic infrastructure.
Preliminary research showed relocation would release about 7 square kilometres of land for developments comprising housing and new industries, an area comparable to the size of a new Town like Tai Po, Sheung Shui or Fanling. Each of them is about 8 sq km, Lam said. Of the 7 sq km of open storage, a rough estimate suggests that 70 per cent is covered by outline zoning plans, while 30 per cent is illegal.
Lam said areas near the border, such as Kwu Tung North, or a newly reclaimed site with a connecting road to the mainland could be optimal relocation sites.
Ng Mee-kam, a professor of urban planning at Chinese University, said relocating open storage would improve the environment. However, she said, extra care needed to be given to new town developments in the proposed areas, including their compatibility with their surroundings and the need for sufficient infrastructure.
'We had a bad experience in building 85,000 flats, when new towns were not given the facilities they deserved,' she said. 'We should not just build a house. We should build a home. That's what people need.'
Meanwhile, Lam indicated a possible review on the new development areas proposed in Ping Che, Kwu Tung North and Fanling North, suggesting that the development boundary for the areas, designed to accommodate 130,000 people, was too confined and did not fully utilise the land resources. 'The extension of the three areas can accommodate a population of 500,000, comparable to that of Sha Tin,' he said.
Lam said that as well as development on suitable agricultural land, another measure to increase land supply was to speed up land use rezoning of private land held by developers by introducing an arbitration process into the land premium negotiation between the Lands Department and developers. Developers would have to agree to accept the arbitrator's final valuation.
However, Daniel Lam Chun, a council member at the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre warned that developers maximising their profits may not opt for arbitration during times of market fluctuations or with large developments.
Andrew Lam said the new government would also consider setting up project-based or task-based offices, where officials from different departments would be housed under one roof to speed up the developments of new areas. It would be similar to the Kai Tak and the Kowloon East Development offices set up by the Development Bureau to steer the Kai Tak, Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay developments.