Public and lawmakers demand details of mystery regional plan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 February, 2011, 12:00am

An ambitious joint study by Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macau has proposed building a new town in North Lantau, a cross-border checkpoint in the West Kowloon arts hub and new cultural villages in Tai O and Fanling to attract tourists.

And crowded Central, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay will transform into low-carbon areas with priority given to pedestrians over vehicles.

The study is titled 'The Action Plan for the Bay Area of the Pearl River Estuary' and was jointly produced by authorities in Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, Dongguan , Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Zhongshan, with the aim of upgrading the region's quality of life.

However, the 18-page public consultation digest - and the 45-page Powerpoint document that goes with it - aims high but is short on detail.

The document has gone unnoticed - at least until recently - with the Planning Department only making a brief statement about it in mid-January before launching a one-month public consultation.

But now, more than 7,000 people have expressed concerns about it and joined a Facebook petition urging the government to extend its public consultation, which is to close on Thursday.

Lawmakers have complained they were not consulted on the plan. The Legislative Council has not received information about it.

'We do not accept our future being decided without us having a fair say,' Chan Kim-ching, who started the Facebook campaign, said. 'We are also uncertain about whether it is a genuine consultation. The Northern Link is still under study. But they have included it in the action plan. Does it mean the government will build it for sure?'

The action plan is one of several attempts at better integrating Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland.

The State Council has outlined a plan for the Pearl River Delta region between 2008 and 2020.

Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau jointly commissioned Peking University and Guangdong Urban and Regional Planning and Design Institute to report on the issues between March and April last year.

Under the action plan, the region will become a 'bay for quality living', building on an advanced public transport network, residential communities with diversified housing types and adequate infrastructure and facilities. It also wants the region to excel in scientific research and development, boost its service sector and expand as a financial and transport hub.

Details of the plan relating to Hong Kong were not included in the text, but low-resolution maps included in the document show a new town in northern Lantau, a cross-border checkpoint in West Kowloon, cultural villages at Tai O and Fanling, and a low-carbon emission plan for Central, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay.

The Northern Link and the express rail connecting Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports, though still under study, are also included.

Authorities in Macau and Guangdong will co-ordinate land use and development of 500 hectares of Macau land - whose reclamation was approved by Beijing in December 2009 - and the business district in Henqin, Zhuhai. The new plan envisages a Zhuhai-Macau industrial zone as a logistics and exhibition centre.

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan has demanded an explanation from the Planning Department as to why the Legislative Council was excluded from the exercise.

Paul Zimmerman of Designing Hong Kong urged the government to publish the full report, in English, and criticised the Planning Department's lack of attempt to engage the non-Chinese speaking community in Hong Kong. 'The information available is not the full report,' he said. 'It doesn't even have the population of each city involved in the study. I understand the study was conducted in Chinese. But the Planning Department should translate the materials into English so everyone in Hong Kong can participate in the discussion.'

A Planning Department spokeswoman said the government would continue to listen to public responses to the plan.