Owner buyout of public open space proposed

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 June, 2008, 12:00am

Ideas aired for flat owners who have to let others onto estates

Underused public open space within private residential developments could be bought by owners at a reasonable land premium as a way of resolving management problems, the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors proposed yesterday.

An alternative would be a government department takeover of management to relieve the burden on flat owners who pay high maintenance and insurance costs, said the institute, whose view was shared by the Institute of Engineers.

Lawmakers attended a special meeting yesterday to collect views on problems arising from open-space management.

Representatives of arts groups, pressure groups, street performers, professional institutions, district councils and political viewpoints attended the meeting.

Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, chairman of general practice division of the Institute of Surveyors, said the government should strive to assume management and maintenance responsibility for public open spaces and not shift the burden to multi-strata owners.

The institute recommended the government assume management responsibility and allow private owners to buy exclusive rights to public open spaces at a reasonable land premium.

The latter suggestion applied only to space not being used and that was not a nuisance or safety concern to residents.

In a written submission, the Institute of Engineers also said management of open spaces should be retained by a designated government department, and added that developers should bear the cost of management if they owned the spaces.

Most people at the meeting said putting public open spaces into the hands of private developers or small owners had intensified conflicts between residents and users.

They said they hoped the government would resolve the problem by drafting clear guidelines for private owners who managed such spaces.

Jason Poon Chuk-hung, a spokesman for a concern group representing residents of Metro Harbourview, said owners had been paying HK$2 million a year to maintain a 9,800-square-metre public garden.

Democratic Party leader Albert Ho Chun-yan urged the government to consult the public when forming guidelines to ensure public access to open spaces.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government must respect contractual agreements that some developments had to provide open spaces.

But for those owned by the government but managed by private owners, the government would consider resuming management through the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

Mrs Lam said a more flexible approach should be adopted to allow more arts performances on streets and in open spaces, and the public would be consulted over draft guidelines.

Open and shut

Bowing to pressure, the government in April released a partial list of privately managed public spaces

The list covers public open spaces in developments built since 1997, and totals: 231