Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 September, 2014, 1:13am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 September, 2014, 1:13am

The Stanley car park plan is madness and should be stopped

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

There have been many awful planning decisions in Hong Kong. One of the more ridiculous projects awaiting a decision is the proposed new car park in Stanley.

The plan which is being pushed by the Transport Department and the Southern District Council is for a 140-space car park on the site of the present bus terminus and adjoining car park at the junction of Stanley Beach Road and Stanley Village Road.

Stanley is a place of scenic charm. Unsurprisingly it attracts a lot of visitors at the weekend and on public holidays, and it can be difficult to find a parking space. A discussion paper produced by the Transport Department in April 2012 says there is insufficient parking at weekends and public holidays. It goes on to note that it consulted the Southern District Council in 2009 along with various other government departments.

"The review has taken into consideration factors such as site constraints, environmental and visual impact to the surroundings, design of the car park entrance/exit, preservation of existing trees," and so on. But nowhere in this paper does the Transport Department explain why it wants to build at that location, which at weekends is the most congested area.

The first proposal was to build a multi-storey car park on the site. This lunacy has now been modified to the lesser madness of building an underground car park. Another feature is to have coach parks along Beach Road. This means that the coaches will sit there with their engines running pumping out toxic emissions completely unhindered.

The department says it will take 40 months to build, which means more than three years of heavy construction work right at the most congested part of Stanley. Despite knowing how long it will take to build, the department is unwilling to say how much it will cost. It is saving this for when it goes to the Legislative Council finance committee for funding. So whatever it tells them we can add another 30 per cent.

Residents question the need for more car parking, saying Stanley is only crowded at weekends and on public holidays.

Indeed a car park on Carmel Road, behind Stanley Plaza, which is open at weekends has to be closed during the week because it is not economical to keep it open, such is the decline in traffic. If we accept that there is a need for additional parking then the obvious place is on the site of the current temporary car park on Carmel Road. This is well away from the village centre but is within walking distance of Stanley Plaza and the waterfront. It would also keep traffic away from the centre of the village, particularly coaches.

Presumably it could also be built more cheaply. The reason why the department is so keen on the site in the centre of the village is because it controls the site and it is therefore easier for it to control the various permits needed for the project. It appears to be more concerned about bureaucratic convenience than locating the car park in a sensible place.

Of course the car park is not just about transport. A number of people who own land and shops in the area favour the plan since they believe it will add to the value of their assets.

A firm supporter of the department's plan is Southern District councillor Chan Lee Pui-ying, who represents Stanley, and owns property in the area. The Stanley Residents Concern Group was set up in 1994 to oppose the original plan.

A traffic impact study it commissioned in 2012 concluded that that the car park was unnecessary and would worsen traffic congestion on an "already saturated road network". This is a project, in Lai See's opinion, so devoid of common sense that it cries out to be stopped.

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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