Urban planning

Public areas a burden for residents: planners

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

Putting public space in the hands of private residential developers has increased the burden on residents and intensified conflicts, planners and Town Planning Board members said yesterday.

Instead of asking residents to bear the cost of maintaining the public open areas, they urged the government to share the cost with developers, to ensure that the public areas were properly taken care of in the long run.

Town planning board member Greg Wong Chak-yan said that the government had asked developers to provide and manage open spaces when it was facing a budget deficit in 2000. But it had since become common for developers to bargain for extra gross floor area by providing public open areas.

The government can grant extra gross floor areas to developers if they open up some areas to the public, according to building regulations.

Dr Wong said the private-public partnership did not function well, and in some cases the burden on residents was so great that they refused to maintain the public areas.

Hollywood Terrace in Hollywood Road was one example.

The public gardens, provided on the fifth and sixth floors, were originally accessible by a public lift. But the lift has not been operating since 2003 because of the huge cost of maintaining it.

'The electricity bill is several hundred thousand dollars a year, and it becomes a burden on the residents,' Central and Western District councillor Kam Nai-wai said, adding that the district council had tried to resolve the problem but failed.

He said the land lease only required residents to provide access to the podium gardens, which still exists in the form of staircases.

Dr Wong said the burden of maintenance should not be borne by the residents. The government should share the cost with the developer at the initial planning stage. 'The amount should be large enough to allow proper management for the next 50 or more years,' he said.

He warned that residents of the Capitol, a residential development at Tseung Kwan O, were also required to maintain the promenade and a large piece of public open space. 'I wonder how many flat owners are aware of this responsibility,' he said.

Institute of Planners vice-president Chan Kim-on said the system failed because it was not closely monitored by the government.

'The public-private partnership is a good idea, but it turns sour as the planned objectives are not delivered.'

The government should commission teams to check the conditions of the open areas, he said.

Mr Chan said the design and layout of open areas had to be approved by the Lands Department or Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

'The government might have required trees and proper seating, but the quality of open space will drop if developers put in few resources because they do not want to be bothered by the public.'