Self-sufficiency object of plan
By JOHN FRANK-KEYES
THE overall planning principle for Tin Shui Wai is essentially similar to those for all Hongkong's other New Towns - self-sufficiency.
The objective was, and remains, the creation of a complete town incorporating all the necessary elements of community, commercial, recreational and social facilities.
The Government's strategic planning directives require the concept of ''balanced development'' to stay centre-stage at all times.
Balance is defined as having a good housing mix, an adequate infrastructure, an efficient transportation system, reliable utility services and satisfactory provision of jobs, educational, shopping, medical, security, social, welfare and recreational facilities.
Ensuring a good quality of life in both environmental and design terms is demonstrably better than in older-style urban areas.
In the case of Tin Shui Wai, its creation, location and unique topography meant additional factors came into play.
The long-term significance of this New Town is that it is built on less than half the land that was reclaimed.
The unused portion comprises the largest continuous area of flat land in the New Territories and now forms the Government's main strategic reserve land-bank for future development.
Detailed plans for the use of this area await the results of a study due to be tabled at the end of the year.
But as Ms Elaine Chung, Deputy Secretary for Works, Programme and Resources, said: ''This land-bank gives up tremendous flexibility in future planning. There is no rush to utilise the land, but it could be turned to almost any use - further housing, industrial or commercial.'' This was echoed by Dr Ted Pryor, one of the Government's principal town planners.
He said: ''The northwest New Territories is clearly going to be one of the principal axes of growth into the next century.'' The location of the new town, built on land reclaimed from below-sea-level fishponds, has been both a problem and a golden opportunity.
On the one hand, extensive drainage and flood protection measures have had to be installed.
But at the same time, in the words of Mr Bernard Lam, project manager for the Northwest New Territories Development office, ''designing Tin Shui Wai has been a joy for the planners, because they could start from a blank sheet of paper''.
Comparing Tin Shui Wai with other New Towns, Mr Lam said: ''Here it was decided to utilise the flatness of the land, by making all the housing blocks high-rise, thus covering only a small proportion of the total surface area.'' One consequence of Tin Shui Wai's unique origins as a public-private joint venture is that accurate demographic trends will be difficult to discern.
Clearly, a comprehensive picture of the shape of a community in terms of age, sex, occupation, income, marital status and number of children is essential in order to plan properly for social, welfare, educational, sporting and other facilities.
''With the public housing half of Tin Shui Wai we will be able to collect and maintain precise records, but it will be far harder with regard to the private housing half. That pattern will depend very much on market forces,'' Mr Lam said.
Finally, the absence of any meaningful contours posed a problem of ''identity'' for planners.
The featureless terrain has however provided a blank canvas for some innovative landscaping and street furniture.
Here, the key ingredients are the large central park serving as a hub for the spokes of parkland radiating out through the town.
This combines with a linear park along a fung shui sightline running northeast to southwest, which bisects the town.
A distinctive local character is being created through the extensive planting of three varieties of tree - the Spider Tree with its spectacular yellow and white floral display, the African Tulip Tree with dramatic crimson blooms, and the Queen Palm.
Further, a new design of street furniture was commissioned, as was a cast iron pavement tree grille suggestive of the sky and water origins of the town. Also a themed paving pattern has been created for the exclusive use of Tin Shui Wai.