Set example on 'inflated buildings', Tsang urged

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 October, 2010, 12:00am

The government has been asked to set a good example by addressing its plans to construct 'inflated buildings' under its West Rail project partnership with the MTR Corporation.

Environmental group Green Sense found six residential projects to be built atop three West Rail stations and the Tin Shui Wai light-rail station will have large car parks, clubhouses and shopping malls taking up as many as seven levels of the buildings.

Such facilities increase the total gross floor area for which flat buyers have to pay. Tall buildings also create a 'wall effect', blocking air flow.

'To show its sincerity, the government should start making changes to projects it can have a say in,' Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong said. '[The West Rail plan] is totally not in line with the new government policy.

'Although all those plans have been approved, the tendering process has not started. It is not too late for the government to make changes.'

Tam was responding to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's promise in his policy address last week to control inflated buildings.

Critics allege developers abuse the government's concessionary policy encouraging the construction of environmental buildings. New measures have been introduced to cut back on the claims developers can make for areas to build extra facilities and green features, but these will not go into effect until April.

The six projects to which Tam referred have already been approved and would not be affected by the new measures, but Tam said the government should set an example. He wanted small and more affordable flats to be built, because most of the units planned would be three-bedroom 'luxury' flats of about 1,000 sq ft.

Citing three projects atop Tsuen Wan West station, Tam said: 'There are already clusters of high-rise blocks walling in the coast of Tsuen Wan. If the new projects go ahead as planned, it will worsen air ventilation in the inner parts of the district.

The new government policy aims to control the scale of developments by capping the amount of floor area that can be given to green features and amenities. Facilities and features such as balconies and clubhouses should not exceed 10 per cent of the total gross floor area of a development.

At present, they may be exempted from calculations of the gross floor area and this has proved a bonanza for developers, which get areas taken up by most of these facilities for free but include them in the pricing of their flats' gross floor area.

Widespread abuse has inflated the scale of development, but shrunk the usable area of flats for homeowners.

The MTR Corp said: 'We are acting as an agent of the government on the West Rail development sites and have the duty to proceed with the planning and development process.'

A spokesman said plans for some of the projects cited by Green Sense were approved two years ago.