Districts lack guidance to check use of public space, councillors say
Austin Chiu and Carrie Lok
District councillors say a government scheme under which they would monitor the use of public spaces in private developments will not work because the councillors lack guidelines about how the different spaces should be used.
But the Development Bureau said the councillors were expected to only report cases in which they knew public access was blocked. A lawmaker said the councillors were best suited to the job because of their local knowledge.
The scheme was put forward amid public outcry after it was found that some developers were blocking public access to what were supposed to be public spaces and others were renting them out for profit.
The South China Morning Post asked all 18 district councils what they had done in response to the government's call. Of those that replied, eight said there were no cases to act on in their district, and three said they wanted to act but had no guidelines.
Kowloon City district councillor Lee Wai-king said the district council role in monitoring how space was used was 'restricted and confusing'.
'Without guidelines, I have no idea what I can do,' Ms Lee said. 'It is ambiguous. The government should try its best to be transparent.'
She called on the bureau to set out general guidelines with general terms to follow.
Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Hung Chiu-wah agreed the government must first spell out the councils' roles. 'It is difficult for us to monitor the areas when we do not know what to report to the government, and to which department we should address the complaint.'
At present, the lands and buildings departments are responsible for checking how land is used and receiving complaints.
The chairman of the Professional Commons think-tank, Albert Lai Kwong-tak, said district councils should not have to shoulder the task of monitoring the accessibility of public open space. 'It is the job of the government,' he said, adding that only the government and property owners would know the details of leases.
However, lawmaker Patrick Lau Sau-shing said the district councils' familiarity with local conditions made them perfect for the job.
A Development Bureau spokeswoman said the office had written to the councils to seek their support for monitoring use of public facilities.