Urban planning

Mega projects rob the streets of life, land group says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 June, 2011, 12:00am


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The Hong Kong government should take a more active role in planning new large developments to maintain the city's vibrant street life, a research organisation suggests.

The Urban Land Institute said developments with large podium structures and blank walls, such as the Kowloon Station project, have lost their ties to street life and were isolated from neighbourhoods.

The institute, a global organisation that claims members in 95 countries and which studies land use, has issued a report with 10 principles for the government and property companies to follow to avoid isolated, bulky developments.

It suggests every district have comprehensive design plans that complement the other districts, with government departments working together to achieve a common vision for the city.

New developments should integrate with existing neighbourhoods so the designs reflect the surrounding community's character. Projects larger than about 150,000 square metres may lead to isolated blocks.

Although the government has encouraged developers to provide public open space in their projects, these areas are often difficult for people to reach. The institute said such space at ground level should be physically and visually connected to similar space at upper levels, thereby encouraging its use. These areas should emphasise natural elements such as trees and grass lawns with space to sit or play. Big developments should integrate smoothly with infrastructure and the transport network at the ground level.

It was important to create integrated city spaces that invited pedestrians in because many mainland cities might follow Hong Kong's pattern, the institute said.

It suggested the town-planning process involve more stakeholders, early on and from diverse backgrounds, with developers working more closely with community groups to incorporate their needs.

Kim Chan Kim-on, a fellow of the Institute of Planners, agreed the government should put more resources into town planning and improve the pedestrian environment. 'They have tightened restrictions on development in recent years, but they should review density at stages as the city grows,' he said.

While the public should be involved in the planning, excessive, unreasonable objections would slow down the process, he warned.