Don't let URA near waterfront and industrial areas, say groups

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 April, 2009, 12:00am

Pressure groups expressed concern at a public hearing yesterday over a proposal to extend the role of the Urban Renewal Authority in revitalising waterfront and industrial areas.

They also called for tracking studies to be conducted to assess the impact of renewal projects on community networks and for social service help offered to affected residents to be more independent.

In the hearing held at the Legislative Council yesterday, more than 30 pressure groups, professional institutes and individual activists were invited to present their views on how the renewal strategy should be changed to accommodate changing social aspirations.

The public consultation on the review of the city's urban renewal strategy will enter its second stage next month, with forums to gauge public views on nine topics, including the future roles and financial framework of the authority.

Responding to a suggestion by the government's steering committee that the authority's roles could be extended to revitalising waterfront and industrial zones, Community Cultural Concern co-ordinator Keith Au Kwok-kuen said he was 'afraid the creative industry would be stifled by the authority if it is given the power to redevelop industrial areas'.

Mr Au said industrial buildings were good places to nurture local arts and creative industries because the units were spacious.

They had become ideal places for film studios, dancing rooms and band rooms, he added. 'The arts industry could be destroyed by the authority as it lacks experience in dealing with arts,' he said.

Wong Ho-yin, a member of People Planning in Action, said his group objected to the idea of handing over the waterfront and industrial areas to the authority, fearing it would become too powerful.

But steering committee member Vincent Ng Wing-shun said extending the authority's role would help the district-based redevelopment approach. 'We need an agency to revitalise areas that have long been neglected in redevelopment,' he said.

'It does not mean the authority would be tearing down all industrial buildings,' he added.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government was keeping an open mind on the future role of the authority, adding the authority had just started its first tracking study in a redevelopment project in Sham Shui Po.

Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing urged the setting up of a special taskforce under Legco's development panel to monitor the strategy review.

Panel members will vote on her taskforce proposal at their next meeting this month.