PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2009, 12:00am

High-rise plan for SoHo streets is inappropriate

The Staunton Street-Wing Lee Street redevelopment project (H19) is a classic example of how the Urban Renewal Authority has failed our city. It provides a strong case for the government to herald a new era of urban regeneration in Hong Kong.

It is the wrong project in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since the project was first announced more than 10 years ago, the planning context (such as the surrounding environment) of the site has changed so much that it now cannot stand the high-rise redevelopment it originally intended.

The URA's dubious consultation process also kept members of the community uninformed about the project details. When the master layout plan was finally unveiled last year, the public was shocked to find that the URA would raze some renovated low-rises to build more wall-like high-rises.

The public is also shocked to hear that the URA does this in the name of financial viability and good urban planning.

Owner-initiated renovation of the Chinese tenement buildings is considered by many a viable means to preserve the character and the low-density of the area. All over SoHo, older buildings have been restored and upgraded in value. This kind of rehabilitation is exactly what the government is promoting.

In this regard, H19 could be the 'model' project for public/private partnership in rehabilitation and redevelopment for public interest.

Provided that clear planning guidelines for keeping the low density of the area are in place, the H19 site could continue the kind of organic regeneration that is happening in SoHo. The original owners of the tenement buildings should be allowed to participate in the process.

The URA could help facilitate the rehabilitation, or in case redevelopment is needed, ensure that sustainable standards are observed.

An independent Town Planning Board is essential to safeguard our living environment. Of course, it has the right to overrule bad master layout plans such as the one submitted by the URA. Planning merits should be the most important aspect in its consideration.

The present deadlock between the URA, the board and the stakeholders in the H19 project could be resolved by seeing things out of the box and putting this challenge in the context of a new urban renewal strategy. If the government insists on pushing through the H19 project along its old ways, it will defeat the strategy reform which has just started to pick up momentum.

Katty Law, Central

Blunders down to shortages

A hospital chief says that a lack of team spirit among frontline health care staff is the main reason for some of the recent medical blunders ('Medical mishaps blamed on lack of team spirit', September 2).

I have been disappointed to read about the medical blunders.

I think the main reason for this is the lack of human resources. The administration has cut manpower of the public medical sector to save government expenditure.

Medical staff are having to do more work than before.

If you have to deal with an inordinate amount of work in a limited time, it is very easy to make mistakes.

In order to deal with this problem, the government should ensure that it has enough staff to provide safe services to patients.

All staff should be able to get sufficient sleep so they have the energy to do their jobs.

June Chan Chung-wai, Tung Chung

Simple way to curb mistakes

Questions have been raised about a lack of team spirit among frontline care staff following blunders in our public hospitals.

I think this is one reason. Morale is at a low ebb in the Hospital Authority. There may as a consequence of this be a lack of team spirit.

However, I do not think this is the main problem.

I think most frontline care staff have maintained their original sense of mission which is to save lives.

However, they are on duty for long hours and have a heavy workload.

Under that sort of pressure, people have made mistakes and will make them again.

It is not their fault. None of us can handle our work well when we have to do too many things and work long hours continuously.

It is the fault of government. It should be employing more frontline care staff.

Officials could do this by offering more attractive salaries and offering better working conditions for employees.

If the government wants to curb the number of mistakes being made, it must take appropriate action.

Lam Tung-fan, Sha Tin

Cage homes should not exist

It is ironic that the price of a cramped and dirty cage house is higher than a luxury apartment ('Charity finds cage homes cost more per sq ft than luxury flats', August 31). Cage houses offer abysmal conditions.

They are not fit for human habitation. We do not even put our domestic pets in cages. If a pet owner did so, they would be condemned by animal rights activists.

Humans should not have to live in such cages.

The continued existence of cage homes will tarnish the image of Hong Kong.

It is a cosmopolitan city famous for its affluence and for safeguarding human rights.

Yet, the plight of the cage dwellers leaves a black mark.

In the summer, temperatures in these cages can rise to 37 degrees Celsius, and ventilation is poor, which is bad for the cage dwellers' health.

Many do not have access to a window.

The government should rectify this problem.

It should construct more public housing estates and allow people from cage homes to live there.

If these tenants, because they are underprivileged, cannot afford the flat, they should be offered a housing allowance.

Of course, government expenditure will rise, as a consequence, but that is what social welfare should be about - protecting people's lives and upholding human values.

Meanwhile, officials should monitor these cage homes and ensure the owners provide adequate space and proper ventilation.

Mike Lam, Kwun Tong

Public housing flats available

A recent survey revealed that some people who lived in cage homes are paying rents at a rate higher than some luxury apartments.

It is obvious that the Housing Department has not done its best to provide enough public rental units for low-income earners or unemployed people.

It is unbelievable that these cage homes, covering a very small area, can in some cases cost more than HK$1,000 a month. Living conditions for the tenants are really terrible.

If they could have public rental flats, their rents would be lower [per sq ft] and they could enjoy a pleasant living environment.

There are some vacant public housing flats.

If the government can accelerate the process of distributing public housing, the problems experienced by cage home dwellers would be alleviated.

I hope that officials will take this survey seriously and try to do something to help these poor people. They should not have to endure their present conditions.

Irene Lee, Sha Tin