Urban planning

New rules fail to stamp out car-parking podiums

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 April, 2011, 12:00am


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Massive car-parking podiums that have become urban eyesores may still be allowed under new rules that came into force last week.

The new policy restricts the floor space developers can gain in exchange for providing green features and other amenities. But it puts no curbs on car parks built above railway stations. Rather, it allows a full exemption if a car park cannot be built underground for technical reasons.

This gives a big advantage to the MTR Corp and its developer partners. Their buildings over an ever-growing railway network can still provide car parks of two to four storeys above ground while being given extra floor space to build more flats.

'The whole parking requirements should be revamped,' Polytechnic University transport specialist Dr Hung Wing-tat said. 'It is ridiculous to encourage residents living above railway stations to own a private car when they can take a train conveniently. Instead of providing parking space for residents living above the stations, we should only target those with special needs such as the elderly and disabled.'

Despite a surplus of parking spaces recorded in all areas except north Lantau since 2006, coming MTR projects will provide a substantial amount of space in projects along West Rail, East Rail and in Kowloon.

The revised policy, which took effect on Friday, is aimed at reining in massive buildings by limiting the amount of extra floor area granted to 10 per cent of the total floor area, except underground car parks and facilities for the community.

Podium gardens on lower floors are an example because they can improve air flow in a district.

Projects will also have to have an environmental performance assessment by the Green Building Council. Thirty new developments have been registered for the assessment so far.

Development Bureau surveys have shown car parks are a major factor allowing developers to inflate their projects through exemptions to gross floor area requirements.

Unless the Transport Department reduces the parking ratio specified for developments, podium car parks that block air flow at pedestrian level will continue to be built over stations.

According to layout plans made available by the Planning Department and MTR Corp, a parking space will be provided for every two to seven flats in new developments above or near stations.

Stations with a high parking ratio are Austin, Tin Shui Wai, Tai Wai and Che Kung Temple, where a parking space is provided for every two to three flats.

Existing planning guidelines set a minimum requirement for car parks in a development according to land use, flat size and the distance from a railway station.

Parking spaces at a project within 500 metres of a station should be 15 per cent fewer than the standard for buildings further away. But Hung said 15 per cent made little difference.

A review of the parking ratio has been under way since 2009, but a Transport Department spokeswoman said it had yet to be completed.

A paper submitted to the legislature by the department in 2007 showed there had been a surplus of night-time private car parking spaces since 2004 and of day-time spaces since 2006 in all districts except north Lantau. If nothing is done to control the parking supply, the surplus will be particularly high in Tuen Mun, Kowloon City, Northern district, Wong Tai Sin and Yuen Long by 2016, where new railway developments are being planned.

'The existing parking requirement has not caught up with the demand and supply in reality,' Simon Ng Ka-wing, a transport planning scholar at the Institute of Environment of the University of Science and Technology, said. The 15 per cent discount for parking space in railway developments should be drastically reduced and a cap should be imposed.

An MTR Corp spokesman said the company would study and follow the new requirements when they were ready.