Call for better town planning
ALL-EMBRACING town planning programmes were needed to avoid the social problems plaguing existing new towns, legislators said.
They said the problems would recur if planning was not better co-ordinated and more far-sighted.
Legislators pointed to a number of social problems in new towns such as Yuen Long and Tuen Mun. They attributed the difficulties to mistakes in town planning, such as poor transport links, community facilities or job opportunities.
Legislator Dr Tang Siu-tong, who put forward the motion, said a more comprehensive programme for town planning was essential when the Government was to allocate a significant amount of land for residential use as part of plans to cool housing prices.
The motion also urged the Government to learn from mistakes so as to ensure the lands allocated to build homes would be developed properly.
The Liberal Party's Lau Wong-fat said: ''Town planning in the New Territories has already been discussed many times by the council.
''Our demand for the Government to improve transport links has already got to the stage of hysteria,'' he said.
The Government had not learned much from the traffic problems experienced by residents in the east and northeast New Territories.
It was likely to repeat the mistakes as it developed the west and northwest New Territories, he said.
Independent Christine Loh Kung-wai said part of the problem was due to the reluctance of the executive-led Government to consult the public before the construction of new towns.
Ms Loh amended the motion by adding that the Government should undertake immediate public consultation to ensure public opinion was embraced in town planning programmes.
''When the planning is made to comply with the needs of the community, the voice from the public must be heard,'' Ms Loh said.
However, Zachary Wong Wai-yin said the Government should make sure there were enough resources to implement the town planning proposals.
''The Government hasn't realised some facilities suggested in the past due to lack of financial support.'' Mr Wong amended the motion to guarantee that the Government would allocate enough money and staff for any town planning programmes.
Legislators also complained that the Government had not done enough to resolve the problems of inadequate job allocation in the remote new towns.
The United Democrats' Albert Chan Wai-yip said many children were left at home alone because their parents had to travel long distances to work in the old urban areas.
Councillors also complained about the lack of primary school places prepared for children in the new towns.
Thirty-three legislators supported the amended motion and three voted against it.
But the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, Tony Eason, defended the Government, saying: ''We learn all the lessons possible from the experience and will apply them intelligently in future.
''We agree that there have been birth pains, difficulties and problems. However, the majority have not been due to inadequate planning and consultation, or insufficient co-ordination.'' Mr Eason said some parents worked in the old urban areas because they wanted to and not because there were no jobs in the new towns.
Dr Tang said he was disappointed by Mr Eason's answer, which had not discussed what would be done in the future.