Any plan for more open space is a good idea

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 December, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong's major developers have our interests at heart. At least the Real Estate Developers Association tells us so. Simply making developers provide environmental features in buildings, as the government is proposing to do, is 'too simplistic', it says. The real solution, the association says, is to sell less urban land for development and instead create more open spaces.

It wants the government to withdraw most land sites set for sale in urban areas. Instead, the government should focus on selling sites in the New Territories and new districts. That way, more parks and other public space would become available in urban areas, according to the association. Doubtless we would all benefit from being less walled in. But some of us might benefit more. Our leading developers already own valuable land and property in places such as North Point and Hung Hom, so withdrawing site sales from those districts would just make what they already own even more valuable.

The association's outburst of public spiritedness was prompted by the government's consultation on whether it should continue a policy of encouraging developers to provide environmental features in buildings in exchange for bonus floor area without being charged a premium. It objects to a proposal to scrap the green concessions while making the provision of green features mandatory. It's not true, the association argues, that they get so much extra space that they end up building wall-like estates that block sunlight and air flow, and cause traffic jams. Green concessions did not make them build those unsightly giant estates, they say, and it's hard to disagree. Policies only encourage behaviour; the ultimate responsibility lies with developers. Scrapping concessions while making green features mandatory would eat into potential profits for developers sitting on undeveloped land. So their altruism also begins at home.

That's not to say we shouldn't listen to what they say. If we don't need the land revenue, perhaps it would be worthwhile - even if some people win more than others - if we can get developers to stop walling us in with giant concrete blocks and get more open space.