New mixed zoning will help to prevent nuisance to residents

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 February, 2011, 12:00am

I refer to the editorial ('The romance of our city must be preserved', February 9), where it is claimed that the government is pursuing a policy of phasing out mixed-use zoning, and Mary Melville's letter ('City thrives on mixed use', February 9).

I would like to clarify that the government has no plans to phase out mixed-use developments. The intention is mainly to improve planning control and avoid the interface problems inherent in mixed-use developments. Hong Kong is a compact city where it is common to find a mixture of uses in developments. We recognise there are merits in integrating different types of compatible uses within a building or area - in particular, when it helps create vitality and diversity in an area.

However, while the commercial/residential zoning can provide flexibility for mixed-use development to meet changing market needs, under this zoning, commercial and residential uses are allowed to intermix within the same building without any planning control, even on the same floor. This may cause nuisance to the residential users. Appropriate planning control in mixed-use developments is therefore necessary.

The Planning Department has been conducting a review of sites zoned commercial/residential on the outline zoning plans for better land use management and more effective planning. Except for areas that are already highly commercial, commercial/residential sites would be rezoned either Residential (Group A), where commercial uses are allowed on the lower three floors of a composite building, or the new zoning of Other Specified Uses annotated Mixed Use.

The new zoning has been introduced to facilitate integrated and well-planned mixed-use developments, ensuring both flexibility and planning control. The new zoning allows a combination of various types of compatible uses, including commercial, residential, educational, cultural, recreational and entertainment use, either vertically within a building or horizontally over a spatial area. However, to prevent non-residential uses causing a nuisance to the residents, physical segregation has to be provided between the residential and non-residential portions of a mixed-use building. This zoning has been introduced into the outline zoning plans covering the Kai Tak, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay districts.

In response to the claim by Ms Melville that the rezoning of mixed-use areas from commercial/residential to commercial would boost the plot ratio by one-third, under the original zoning, a commercial development built up to the maximum plot ratio of a non-domestic building is always permitted. A rezoning to commercial use is to reflect the existing character of areas that have mainly been developed for commercial use. There is no question of boosting plot ratio as a result of the rezoning.

To provide clear guidance for use and development within the new zone, a set of Town Planning Board guidelines has been drafted and is being circulated for consultation.

Christine Tse, for the Director of Planning