Most open public spaces are on luxury estates

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2008, 12:00am

List reveals 231 areas, many with poor access

A list of more than 230 privately managed public open spaces was made public yesterday, revealing most are part of luxurious residential developments and some are very difficult for the public to gain access to.

Released by the Development Bureau, the list only shows public open spaces within private developments completed since 1997. Pressure groups and planners urged the government to release information on developments completed before 1997, including restrictions on the use of open space and the conditions imposed under the leases and deeds.

Of the 231 areas disclosed yesterday, 152 are required to be provided under land leases. The remaining 79 are under deeds of dedication, whose developers were awarded extra gross floor area for providing public open space. More than 70 per cent of the open areas are included in private residential developments.

Pressure for disclosure of the list came after the discovery that the piazza of the Times Square mall in Causeway Bay was public open space. Management had previously forbidden members of the public from sitting or lingering in the square and had run profit-making activities in it.

A Development Bureau spokesman said yesterday the Buildings Department had written to the Times Square management asking it to provide details of the fees it charges for holding exhibitions or displays in the public open space.

A survey conducted by the South China Morning Post yesterday found accessibility of the public open space in private developments varied.

The 15,000 sq ft of public open space on the 5th and 6th levels of Hollywood Terrace in Central is poorly used by the public because the lift linking the ground floor to the open space has been kept locked for five years because of the high maintenance cost.

A Hollywood Terrace resident of more than a decade who gave his name only as Mr Chui said security guards used to chase away non-residents from using the lift.

But a spokesman for the Housing Society, which owns the development, said the property management staff could operate the lift if someone needed to use it. He said the land grant did not specify that the lift had to be made available.

Members of the public who want to enjoy the spectacular sea view from the Laguna Verde promenade in Kowloon City are luckier because there is no barrier blocking them from entering the ground-level space.

But a resident of the prime site, Rita Cheung, said she had not known the promenade was public open space and was now worried it would cause a nuisance if too many people used it.

A spokewoman for developer Cheung Kong said signs identifying the area as public space were posted along the Laguna Verde promenade and no complaints from the public had been received.

Millennium Plaza in Sheung Wan is listed as having 27,640 sq ft of public space but part of the area is occupied by a cafe. The plaza is also rented out for the holding of exhibitions.

Town Planning Board member Ng Cho-nam said the government should release information on open space completed before 1997. 'Management of the open spaces will only be improved when they are put under the public spotlight,' Dr Ng said.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong of environmental group Green Sense said the government should also disclose how much extra gross floor area property developers obtained for providing certain public facilities and open space.

He said the profits from commercial activities in public open space should be donated to charity.

Regarding the quality of public open spaces, the government said the bureaus or departments concerned would advise on requirements and standards with regard to the size and location of the sites.

The Development Bureau's spokesman said the bureau disclosed the information to ensure the public could enjoy the open spaces, adding the list would be updated from time to time, including private developments completed before 1997.

Open and shut cases

Examples of the public spaces required under developers' leases

140,000sq ft Open space at Laguna Verde, Kowloon City, on ground level

Public space One SilverSea, Tai Kok Tsui, acessible from Hoi Fai Rd

39,820sq ft Open space at Vision City, Tsuen Wan. Open from 6.30am to 11pm daily

Public path Grand Palisades, Tai Po, accessible from Shan Tong RD

10,870sq ft Open space at Grand Promenade, Sai Wan Ho, next to typhoon shelter

13,680sq ft Open space at The Orchards, Quarry Bay, on ground level

Public path The Grandeur, Causeway Bay, accessible from Fuk Hing Lane or Fung Un St

95,800sq ft Open space at Royal Ascot, Sha Tin, on level 1. Open from 6am to 11pm daily

15,000sq ft Open space at Hollywood Terrace, Central, on levels 5-6