Seoul offers inspiration for city, argue planners

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2007, 12:00am

The newly established development bureau was not structurally favourable to sustainable development, said planners who urged the bureau to learn from Seoul's experience and develop Hong Kong in a creative way.

The bureau is said to be responsible for speeding up public works, which has raised fears among planners that the government will continue with its 'unsustainable' style of development.

'The bureau's structure is not favourable for sustainable development,' said Pong Yuen-yee, vice-president of the Hong Kong Institute of Planners.

She said the bureau, under the supervision of the financial secretary, was separated from the Unit of Sustainable Development, which was under Environment Bureau control, supervised by the chief secretary.

The planning expert said there needed to be co-operation between the bureaus, adding the government often relied on building roads to combat congestion.

Ms Pong was a member of the government's panel of experts, which reviewed the need to build the Central-Wan Chai Bypass two years ago.

When the panel acknowledged the need to build the bypass, she said, the view was that it should go along with certain traffic control measures, including a land-use review. She said the development bureau had a significant role to play in planning Hong Kong's future, including the land-use review in Central and agricultural land in the New Territories.

She said to continue developing land in Central as commercial areas would only make it more crowded, so the government had to look for alternatives like West Kowloon.

The institute also suggested reviving agricultural land in the New Territories to provide jobs for low-income groups.

She added that it was doubtful such large areas would still be required for cargo storage when further border crossings were completed.

'We reclaimed land for roads while Seoul's government demolished its flyover for a stream,' said Ms Pong, referring to the Cheonggyecheon stream, which was restored by the South Korean capital's government to cool the city.

Members of the Town Planning Board, who visited the stream with the panel, said they were surprised by Seoul's determination, adding that Hong Kong should learn from the restoration project by beautifying the city's concrete nullahs.

'The government has returned the stream to its people, with wall painting at both sides to explain its history,' said member Nora Tam Feng-yi.