Urban planning

URA project plot ratio shenanigans will give developer another windfall

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 March, 2008, 12:00am

In her letter regarding the promised 1,200 square metres of open public space at the Urban Renewal Authority's Hanoi Road redevelopment ('Open space will have plenty of greenery,' February 17), Angela Tang once again conveniently omitted to mention the four-storey footbridge, covering 97 square meters of that space, and the very large canopies that will cover most of the remaining area.

Not only is the space no longer open, even though planning regulations stipulate that it can only be covered for specific purposes such as public toilets, its area has also been included in the plot ratio for the project despite the fact that this is also not allowed under the planning regulations.

Consequently, in a scenario that has a strong resemblance to the Henderson Land Grand Promenade scandal, the developer New World has either managed to hoodwink or connived with the URA, Planning Department and Town Planning Board to greatly increase the density of the development, and will reap billions in extra income.

With a plot ratio of about 12.5, the additional 1,200 square metres times 11.5 plus the footbridge area's extra 388 square metres generates 14,200 square metres - about 152,800 sq ft. As rents at the nearby Gateway serviced apartments are about HK$45 per sq ft, this newer property should command about HK$50 per sq ft. This will allow New World to pocket an extra HK$90 million per year. This is a conservative estimate as 30 per cent of the development will be retail and restaurants that will command much higher rents. In addition New World can get around the serviced apartment regulations, as other property developers have done, and sell off the apartments for top dollar.

To add insult to injury, a 35 square metre video wall will be erected in the covered corridor blasting out ads and other trivia to ensure that no pesky locals linger too long in the public open space.

When can we expect a public enquiry into this manipulation of open space and the negligence of the government and district representatives to ensure redevelopment projects deliver what they promise and for their failure to protect the public interest?

Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui